Jones, Holley: Session ‘above average’

Published 12:05 am Saturday, May 25, 2013

Covington County’s representatives in the state legislature agreed they’d rank the 2013 legislative session above average.

The session, which ended this week, produced the state’s two budgets with days to spare, gave teachers a 2 percent pay raise, addressed gun rights, consolidated state law enforcement agencies, and provided for tax credits for parents whose children are in “failing schools” and are moved to private schools.

On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being a great session, Rep. Mike Jones (R-Andalusia) ranked 2013 “a seven to an eight,” while Sen. Jimmy Holley (R-Elba), ranks it an eight.



Both put getting the budgets done before the last day of the session – as is often the case – as one of the biggest successes.

“We passed the budgets, again with limited resources, but to a large degree, we were able to fund state government,” Holley said.

In addition to being done before the last night, the budgets were much cleaner, Jones said. “There were fewer personal projects thrown in the midst of them,” he said.

Jones said he was very pleased that the legislature quickly took steps to “pay back” the Alabama Trust Fund, from which the state has “borrowed” funds to balance the general fund budget.

“It was one of the first things we got done, and the first one the governor signed,” he said.

The education budget put more emphasis on modernizing education through technology. As well, more money was directed money toward skill training and dual enrollment programs. While there is a vibrant local dual enrollment program that allows students to simultaneously earn college and high school credits, that’s not the rule statewide.

“I think it’s going to become the norm and it’s high time,” he said. “I think you’re going to see two-year college enrollment climb.”

That’s important also, he said, because it gives Alabama a skilled workforce, which helps attract jobs to the state.


Consolidated law enforcement

Both men said they were pleased with steps taken to consolidate state law enforcement agencies.

“With consolidation, and the economies of scale, we should get better law enforcement at a better price,” Holley said.

Jones said the average state subsidizes six to nine law enforcement agencies.

“Our state had 20 to 22,” he said. “Clearly there was a lot of waste, and overlap. We now have a structure to eliminate as much waste as we as can.”

Similar consolidations are being made in the legislature, he said.


Gun rights

Jones sponsored HB8, which passed the Senate 20 minutes before the session ended, and will be on the November 2014 ballot as a Constitutional Amendment, protecting the rights of Alabamians to bear arms. While that is a 2nd Amendment right of the U.S. Constitution, Jones said he believes the state amendment is necessary to give clarity to potential legal arguments. While the issue addressed is not critical now, he said, he believes it could be if there were a shift to the left on the U.S. Supreme Court.


Wait’ll next year

Holley brought a bill that would have reorganized the way the legislative branch of government works. The bill was blocked in the Senate, but Holley said he’ll be back with it.

“I’ve already received a phone call from the leadership in the Senate asking me to get the bill together in final form and let’s pre-file it so it’ll be one of the first bills addressed.”

Jones said he will be back with legislation to update the Uniform Commercial Code.


Other bills of interest

• Jones said he was pleased with a bill that attaches the same restrictions to minors for electronic cigarettes as for traditional tobacco products.

• Holley cited steps in Medicaid reform, locating regional organizations to oversee patient care.

“It’s a different approach to providing health care to those receiving Medicaid,” he said.