Monday, January 13, 2014

It's time to return to Montgomery and address the state's issues

As my fellow legislators and I return to Montgomery today, it is important that we remember why we were elected to public office.

The people of this state want representation that will bring them good jobs, a strong education and fair policies. The people want a government that works for them and their families' interests.

But over the past three years, the Alabama Republican supermajority has not worked for the best interests of the voters. They've slowed our economy, assaulted our public schools and halted our health care.  This session must be different.

Alabama is one of five states that has suffered from a shrinking economy in the last year. We are currently 49th in the nation in job creation, after creating only 300 more jobs than we lost last year. We have common sense proposals to address these issues, starting with an increase in the minimum wage for our working families and an apprenticeship program to allow small businesses to train students entering the workforce.

We cannot recruit jobs without an educated workforce, which is why I want to work to bring more career technical programs and dual-enrollment scholarships to this state.  We must train our students to fill the spots opening from retirements and new industry that comes to this state.

But education starts much earlier than high school. We must also invest in the programs that work: the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative and the Alabama Reading Initiative. We must invest in pre-k and we must put money into every public school. All of this starts with repealing the Accountability Act, a law passed behind closed doors to use your tax dollars to send a few wealthy students to private schools. 

The other component to a quality workforce is a healthy workforce. Alabama opted out of accepting federal money to expand Medicaid, and now we must find the funds to cover the health needs of our citizens. Right now, half of all babies born in Alabama are born on Medicaid, and 40 percent of all children are covered by Medicaid. Governor Bentley has promised that he will not expand this critical program, which puts children and families at risk of not receiving the care they need.

Jobs, education and health care affect millions of individuals across this state every day. This isn't just public policy--this is people's lives and wellbeing and for that reason, we must treat the legislative process with respect.

We must debate these bills, and we must work together to compromise and find solutions that work for families and businesses across the state. That's why we were elected, and that's the job set before us this session.

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