State of The State By The Numbers
We were honored to get the chance to coordinate the 8th annual State of the State address on Tuesday, November 27th featuring full details on how 2018 state bills directly affect Northeast Alabama; as presented by Senator Livingston and Representative Ledbetter.
Senator Steve Livingston opened the morning with overwhelming gratitude on what a pleasure it’s been to serve District 24 along with Representative Nathanial Ledbetter. The tag team duo, then jumped right into the highlights of 2018, while looking forward to 2019. The following is an overview of the slide-show presentation that took place at Northeast Alabama Community College.
1. Alabama’s Economy is Booming!
The greatest takeaway, Alabama is working again! The state unemployment rate as of February 2018 was 3.7%, a record low according to The Alabama Department of Labor. Workers and businesses are flourishing as Alabama lawmakers work with President Trump to put American jobs first.
2. Tax cuts for Alabamians
For the first time in over a decade, working families will now collectively save $40 million over the next ten years. Coupled with President Trump’s tax break, Alabama’s lower and middle-income workers and families are getting real tax relief.
3. Increased Education Spending
Although there are quite a few incredible school systems throughout the state of Alabama there are several counties still lagging behind, contributing to an overall low-ranking score nationwide. Our state wants better, so lawmakers have passed the largest Education budget ($6.63B) since the Great Recession. Educators will now see a 2.5% pay raise for both teachers and support personnel, in addition to a 4% pay raise in 2016 for teachers.
Schools across the state will benefit from an $ 18.5M increase for first class was approved through the Education Trust Fund for 107 new Pre-K classrooms. The FY19 budget sets aside an additional $1.1m for career tech, ups transportation funding by $6m, and increases spending on textbooks by $11m.
Every year, we rely more on internet-based technology so it is imperative that America produce the most innovative cyber engineers in the world. In preparation for the workforce changes in this area we are glad to announce a new school based in Huntsville, it will be a public magnet school for students in grades 7-12 called, the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering. Any student from Alabama can apply for admittance, and the school’s first class is set to begin in 2020.
4. Balanced the General Fund
State lawmakers were able to accomplish a balanced budget ($2B), with no new tax increases while giving to important departments as follows:
A targeted $3m increase for the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency to put 30 additional state troopers on the road.
The budget gives a 3% cost-of-living raise to state employees, the first COLA they have had in 10 years.
Corrections was given a $55 million increase to hire additional mental and medical health staffers.
Mental Health’s budget was increased by $8 million to help address the opioid crisis.
5. First time home-buyer savings account
A tax-free savings account for first-time home buyers and for those re-entering the housing market, if they have not owned a home in ten years. It’s called the First-Time Homebuyer & Second-Chance Savings Account Program HB248/ Act 2018- 467, more details can be found here.
This credit can be used for a down payment and/or closing costs for a single-family dwelling. Deposits/earnings in the account cannot exceed $50,000 and qualified expenditures must be made within 5 years of opening the account.
6. Support of Alabama’s Military Members
The Legislature and Gov. Ivey set aside February 15th as Military Appreciation Day and had the inaugural celebration…
Feb 15 Military Apprec Day http://www.kxxv.com/story/37504751/general-perna-to-address-alabama-legislature
Vet Employment Act: Act 2018-194 (H.B. 83):
This act enhances the tax credits available for hiring veterans originally established by the Heroes for Hire Act of 2012 by doubling the available credit and expanding the classes of veterans that are eligible for the credit.
Parks for Patriots: My understanding is all state parks that charge an admission fee will be free to vets, here is a link with further info.
The Veterans Employment Act establishes a one-time $2,000 income tax credit for businesses that hire a veteran for a full-time position paying at least $14/hour.
The Parks for Patriots Act gives Alabama’s current military members and veterans free access to Alabama’s twenty-two state parks.
7. Ridesharing for all of Alabama
Due to the lack of statewide, uniform regulations, in early 2018 ridesharing companies operated in only fifteen cities in Alabama. Now, the Legislature gave ridesharing companies like Uber a green light to operate across the entire state. One set of rules for ridesharing companies gives folks all over the state another choice in transportation and paves the way for more jobs in the state.
8. Data Breach Notification Act
In March, Equifax reported that 2.4 million Americans were affected by a breach in 2017 of the company’s data. Now, private companies and state agencies in Alabama are required to report data breaches to affected consumers. The Attorney General can assess fines of $5,000/day and file a lawsuit on behalf of the affected individuals against entities that don’t report data breaches.
9. Protection of Children & Families
According to the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force, the average age of sex trafficking victims is between 11-14 years old. It is estimated that two children are trafficked into sexual exploitation every minute. We’ve had enough and are tightening regulations to put a stop to the exploitation of children. Tougher penalties for obstructing human trafficking (which includes child sex trafficking) investigations. Maximum offense is now a Class A felony, with a minimum jail time of 10 years.
10. Fast Broadband Internet for all of Alabama
It’s no longer acceptable that 800,000 people in Alabama are without access to a wired connection capable of 25mbps download speeds, and 276,000 people don’t have any wired internet providers available at all.
The Broadband Accessibility Fund will award grants to telecommunications and cable companies that build broadband infrastructure in under-served areas of the state who suffer from lack of internet connections.
So what’s the big deal?
There are parts of the state where kids can’t get on the internet. What if there is a kid in our state who might have an idea to cure cancer? We have to give our residents the access to the modern world, so we can continue to provide vibrant contributors to the world.
11. Improving Safety at Daycares, Protecting Religious Liberty
The Child Care Safety Act increases safety reporting requirements for daycare centers, while protecting faith-based daycares from DHR licensure. Now, all daycare centers, including faith-based ones, must carry liability insurance, have annual fire and health inspections done, and conduct criminal background checks on employees
Looking forward towards economic growth.
“We’ve got things in Alabama we’ve go to fix”, said the Senator. They are excited about working with candidates who are willing to fix the state for the next generation and not just for the next election.
Legislators are ready to get back to work with a conservative agenda ahead of them. With support from Governor Ivey and Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth, our economy will continue to grow and flourish. The presenters expressed their desire to work together to strengthen our infrastructure, our school systems, workforce development and position Alabama toward further successes.
2019 Legislative Session is sure to handle some controversial issues such as an Infrastructure Plan, a Lottery Bill, Prison/ Criminal Justice Reform, Protection of Rural Health Care, and possibly some calls for Medicaid expansion.
“There are a lot of moving parts & we must get the formula right.” -Nathanial Ledbetter
Thank you Northeast Alabama Community College for hosting, Jackson County Legislative Delegation for presenting and Scottsboro Electric Power Board, Fort Payne Chamber of Commerce and Rainsville Chamber of Commerce for sponsoring.