House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, used a press release to applaud their fellow Republicans for acting quickly. They ignored the few Democrats who sided with them, but after all, this is partisan politics. Besides, Republicans need to be careful, for those Democrats may be lining up to switch parties before the “what it takes to be a Republican” test is in place.
The House passed the GOP-labeled Responsible Budgeting and Spending Act that would require budgeting based on a rolling average of the last 15 years rather than an estimate of what revenue might be collected. The purpose was to prevent the mid-year budget cuts (proration) that have plagued Alabama schools for years.
This page is not sure of the full ramifications of this legislation; the Alabama Education Association claims it might limit teacher raises. However, if the bill keeps legislators from budgeting based on the most optimistic revenue estimates instead of the realistic ones, it might prove worth the effort.
The Senate voted to end to the Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP) for public employees, which Hubbard and Marsh called a “luxurious benefit plan” the state can’t afford. DROP allowed teachers who are 55 years old and older and have 25 years experience to set aside retirement money to be taken later in a lump sum.
DROP’s purpose was to keep experienced teachers from retiring early and leaving the state to enter another retirement system. Although DROP is a juicy incentive for teachers to stay, just how much money will be saved is questionable. But doing away with a state perk that non-state employees can’t get is normally a good political move.
A House committee also voted to pass an immigration bill that would crack down on employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. Making employers use the federal e-card system to determine if a worker is legal has merit, even though this provision and others in the bill could add to state law-enforcement costs.
On the whole, however, what this bill really does is satisfy those who want to demonize immigrants both legal and illegal as the cause of many societal and economic problems and, likewise, allow the Alabama Legislature to join Arizona in this ultra-tough immigration stance.
These bills still have to pass both houses and be signed by the governor, but with the GOP in control, that likely will happen.
While we’re uncertain what these bills may accomplish — be it good or bad for the state — at least the new Republican majority did what it told voters it would do.