Republicans still voice support for 'school choice' bill despite injunction
by Will Heath
ST. CLAIR COUNTY — More than a week after a tumultuous night in the Alabama legislature, local representatives still voiced their support for the controversial “school choice” bill.

Local legislators admitted that very little took place in the legislature during the week of March 4 — Rep. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, called it “a slowdown week” due to the fallout from last week’s debate over the Alabama Accountability Act. As of press time, an injunction from Montgomery County circuit judge Charles Price had prevented the act from being signed into law, and was awaiting review from the State Supreme Court.

“I guess people complain about how something was accomplished, when they don’t like what was accomplished,” McClendon said. “It’s not unexpected.”

The House of Representatives did pass some legislation related to limited liability for Airbus, an aerospace corporation that last year chose to locate in Mobile. McClendon said that the coming week for the legislature will focus on “pro-business” bills.

“Next week, the House of Representatives is going to focus on stimulating business, cutting red tape and making things better for job creation in Alabama,” he said.

Rep. Mack Butler said the accountability act — which would assign tax credits to students wishing to opt out of failing school districts — may require some tweaking, but is overall better for the future of the state.

“I’ll be the first to admit: we need to do a little cleanup on the bill, but as a former school board member, I love the flexibility part,” Butler said. “I think we can get it clean, where most people are excited about it.”

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said he believes the court case will settle quickly.

“I think we’re in good position,” said Marsh. “The ruling from Judge Price doesn’t surprise me; he’s a very liberal judge and has a history doing such as this.

“We don’t think this (injunction) will stand up. Then we’ll be one step closer to giving these parents of children in failing schools an option. It’s a good piece of legislation.”

Rep. Randy Wood, R-Anniston, also highlighted some other legislation that came from the previous week — notably the consolidation of law enforcement, as a money-saving device.

“If you’ve got a water officer, all he’s used to is working drownings and boat accidents,” Wood said. “We’re going to get more bang for our buck; plus we’ll have one guy at the top, so we’ll have fewer chiefs and more Indians.”

Wood also highlighted some upcoming legislation that would increase the number of hours for a driver’s license, which he says will help the state gain access to federal transportation money.

“Right now, in Alabama, if you’re a teenager and you want your driver’s license, you have to have 20 hours of student driving,” he said. “What this bill does, it makes it 50 hours; if we do this, the federal Highway Safety Act will give us several million dollars. I’m working with (the Alabama Department of Public Safety) on that, trying to get that done.”

Contact Will Heath at wheath@thestclairtimes.com.

© 2013