Session will be quick, budgets priority

Published 12:22 am Wednesday, January 8, 2014

0108 Town Hall 2

Rep. Mike Jones and Sen. Jimmy Holley expect the 2014 legislative session to be a quick one for Alabama lawmakers, but said they each hope to push several new bills through when the they convene next week.

“I expect it to be a quick session,” Holley said Tuesday during a town hall meeting in Florala. “I expect to pass the budget, but a few bills will be introduced and we’re hoping Rep. Jones’ bill and mine will be two of them.”

Holley (R – Elba) said those bills include a piece of legislation sponsored by Jones (R – Andalusia) addressing liability insurance for teachers. Holley called the bill, HB 17, Jones’ “cornerstone bill,” and said he prefiled it in 2013.

Jones said the crux of the bill is legislation that will give educators more room to do “the jobs they were called to do,” without risk of frivolous lawsuits.

“That takes them away from what their purpose is,” Jones said. “Let’s protect them while they are doing their jobs.”

Jones said the three-and-a-half page bill was crafted using the best ideas found in similar bills in other states that provide a certain level of immunity for teachers.

Holley also plans to push for an early approval for a bill that he authored and said was “shot down” during last year’s session – a plan to re-organize the legislature.

“We’ve already introduced SB 11,” Holley said. “We’ve already taken a hard look at the executive branch, but it’s time to look internally at the legislature.”

Holley and Jones also fielded questions from the audience Tuesday, with the majority of the inquiries involving local jobs and the Affordable Care Act.

Responding to questions about rising insurance premiums for many Alabama citizens, Jones said the problem is one of many with the ACA, commonly referred to as Obamacare. Jones called the law complicated and poorly written, adding the unclear message it sends leaves companies like Alabama’s Blue Cross and Blue Shield left guessing at what the right course of action may be – often leading to higher premiums.

“When you have a poorly drafted law, agencies interpret what it means,” Jones said. “The regulations stack up six feet high. Those are the regulations agencies are trying to interpret. When you get that, you end up with a train wreck.”

Jones and Holley also touched briefly on southeast Alabama’s job market, praising two-year schools such as LBW for their implementation of career-tech programs, while offering hope for the future from newly landed contracts such as Airbus in Mobile.

“When you have something like Mobile has, the first thing they are going to need is workers for construction,” Jones said. “That comes from all over the state.”

The Alabama legislatures convenes for its 2014 session Tue., Jan. 14.