In less than two months, the Alabama Legislature will convene for the 2019 session with the usual mounting issues to address.
But there is a positive feeling coming into this session that sets up the potential for more to be accomplished than past years.
At the head is Gov. Kay Ivey, a veteran politician who outright won the job after stepping in and doing an honorable job in the wake of former Gov. Robert Bentley’s mess. Others fell by the wayside because of corruption as well, and a host of former lawmakers didn’t seek re-election or were unseated.
This leaves the door open for fresh minds and voices to mix with the veteran politicians who remain. The atmosphere should be positive for moving Alabama forward.
The local delegation from Cullman County will include two returning lawmakers, Reps. Randall Shedd and Corey Harbison, to join with Rep. Scott Stadthagen, who will represent the northern portion of the county and a larger area of Morgan County.
Garlan Gudger is the new senator, whose district includes all of Cullman County as well as portions of Lawrence, Winston and Marion counties.
Each member of our delegation comes into this session with records of service, integrity and accomplishment. They have shown leadership qualities that have moved the area forward economically and in quality of living. They will join with 135 other leaders from communities across the state in attempting to tackle issues ranging from infrastructure and prisons to education and Medicaid.
Looking forward to the March 5 launch of the legislative session choosing priorities is difficult for a state that is enjoying its best economic run in decades while still struggling to solve lingering, albeit pressing problems.
Medicaid expansion, rejected by Alabama and other states in the past, is now gaining momentum. Several states that initially balked are coming on board for the benefits to their citizens and the long-term good that will be accomplished. Expanding Medicaid in Alabama would extend healthcare to thousands of residents, which they deserve and would improve the state’s overall quality of life.
Highways, bridges and technology are urgent needs under the umbrella of infrastructure. Extending online connectivity into rural areas will open the gates to better education and more economic opportunities for areas that are now being left behind.
The prison system is a dangerous, antiquated train wreck. Prison security officials are at greater risk than ever because of overcrowding, old facilities and poor technology. The lock-up strategy of the past needs to be abandoned in favor of more productive methods that will ease the prison population and create pathways back into society and the workforce for some inmates who are serving time for minor, non-violent crimes.
Education funding works for those who live in economic robust areas of Alabama with strong local tax support. Otherwise, schools are struggling to engage students and meet the focus needed to prepare for an evolving work environment.
The idea of a lottery has been batted about like a hot potato, and for no clear reason to most Alabamians. Establishing a lottery is simple and will bring in needed dollars to help the overburdened General Fund.
The timing is ripe for the Legislature to make giant strides. We’re looking forward to our lawmakers providing great leadership in Montgomery and move (or push) Alabama into a more sustainable position for tomorrow.