Alabama House Republican Caucus announces 2018 legislative agenda

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WTVY) — The Alabama House Republican Caucus on Thursday released its 2018 “Flag, Family, and Country” legislative agenda, a package of nine measures designed to provide protections for Alabama families, extend benefits to active duty soldiers and military veterans, and encourage respect for the U.S. Flag during the playing of the National Anthem and other patriotic displays.

The package also includes state budgeting reforms, efforts to address the opioid crisis in Alabama, and a call for Congress to speed construction of a secure wall across the U.S. - Mexican border.

“Rather than being considered as separate, stand-alone documents, the legislative agendas offered by the Alabama House Republican Caucus during the 2014 - 2018 quadrennium should be viewed as four pieces of the same puzzle - each fitting with the other and providing a full and vivid picture when completed,” House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R - Rainsville) said. “In previous years, we have focused upon protecting unborn life, attracting new jobs, improving public education, and fighting federal government intrusion. In 2018, our ‘Flag, Family, and Country’ agenda will focus upon other areas that are important to all conservative and patriotic Alabamians.”

Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R - Monrovia) said he fully supports the measures in the “Flag, Family, and Country” agenda, and will prioritize their passage as they move through the legislative process.

“As soon as they are ready to come to the floor, the bills in the House Republicans’ ‘Flag, Family, and Country’ agenda will be given the attention of the body,” McCutcheon said. “It is my hope that we can quickly approve the important measures included in the agenda, fulfill our constitutional duty of passing balanced budgets, and provide the citizens of Alabama with the efficient and effective government they deserve.”

The bills, measures, and resolutions in the House Republican Caucus’ “Flag, Family, and Country” agenda are:

Childhood Trauma and Domestic Violence Prevention Bills

In order to protect against extreme trauma that can be experienced by children and family members who witness first-hand acts of domestic violence against a parent or guardian, two bills are proposed that would increase the penalties for domestic violence in the presence of a child.

The first bill would call for the death penalty or life in prison without parole for murder of a parent or guardian in the presence of a child.

The second would dramatically increase the penalties for acts of domestic violence committed against a parent or guardian in the presence of a child.

The Veterans Employment Act

This bill expands the “Heroes for Hire Act” previously passed by House Republicans and provides incentives to businesses that hire honorably discharged veterans who are currently unemployed. The bill would ensure that the veterans covered by this incentive program would be hired for full-time jobs and earn at least $14 per hour. Because the program is modeled after the “pay as you go” method of awarding economic incentives, it would have no negative fiscal impact on the budgets. The previous program applied only to “recently deployed” veterans, but this package includes all currently unemployed veterans.

Parks for Patriots Act of 2018

This bill would provide free, year-round admission to all Alabama state parks for all active military personnel and veterans, including members of the National Guard and Reserves. Recently, the Department of Conservation commenced the Parks for Patriots initiative as an administrative pilot program at the suggestion of House Republicans, and this bill would permanently establish the program into state law.

Resolution urging respect to be shown for the U.S. Flag

This resolution would urge all Americans to show proper honor and respect to the U.S. Flag during the playing of the National Anthem, the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, and other displays of patriotic pride.

Resolution supporting construction of a U.S. - Mexican border wall

This resolution would urge Congress to fund and expedite the construction of a secure wall across the border between the United States and Mexico, which continues to be a cornerstone priority of President Donald Trump’s administration.

Consideration of proposals by the Alabama Opioid Overdose and Addiction Council

Like other states across the country, Alabama has experienced a dramatic increase in the abuse of opioids among its citizens, and the epidemic of addiction has affected untold numbers of families, friends, co-workers, church members and others who just a few years ago thought they would never be touched by the problem. To combat the serious societal issue, Alabama House Republicans pledge to closely monitor the work of Governor Kay Ivey’s Alabama Opioid Overdose and Addiction Council and will quickly review and consider any suggested legislation that it may put before the body.

Prioritizing of rural development proposals and initiatives

Rural Alabama is the backbone of our state, and citizens who live outside major metropolitan areas need the same access to jobs, opportunities, and infrastructure as those in more populous regions. For those reasons, House Republicans pledge to focus upon and consider bills, programs, and initiatives intended to provide rural Alabamians with more economic development and quality of life resources.

Providing unprecedented amounts of budget and fiscal information to taxpayers

House Republicans understand Alabamians deserve more transparency and access to information regarding the taxpayers’ dollars they send to Montgomery, and while much progress has been made in this area, work remains to be done. Alabama House Republicans pledge to continue supporting the efforts of the Joint Legislative Task Force on Budget Reform and will work with our Senate colleagues and the staff of the Legislative Services Agency to immediately make public an unprecedented amount of information regarding state finances.

State Rep. Connie Rowe (R - Jasper) chaired the Caucus Agenda Committee and said the panel worked hard to select bills that both reflect the conservative values most Alabamians hold and also improve the lives of citizens across the state.

“As a former police chief, I am pleased that increased penalties for felony domestic violence will be considered this session, but all of the agenda’s measures are worthy of attention.” Rowe said. “Addressing the opioid crisis, focusing on development in the rural portions of our state, providing benefits to soldiers and veterans, and the other agenda items will all have deeply positive impacts on the lives of Alabamians.”

Agenda bills were proposed by Republican House members and were vetted by the Caucus’s Agenda Committee, which was chaired by Rowe and included State Rep. April Weaver (R - Brierfield), State Rep. Corey Harbison (R - Good Hope), State Rep. Alan Baker (R - Brewton), State Rep. Joe Lovvorn (R - Auburn), State Rep. Corley Ellis (R - Columbiana), State Rep. Dimitri Polizos (R - Montgomery, and State Rep. Steve McMillan (R - Bay Minette).

The full Caucus culled the committee’s suggestions and voted unanimously to adopt the measures included in the 2018 “Flag, Family, and Country” agenda.

The three previous House Republican Caucus legislative agendas that were proposed and passed through the body this quadrennium were:

The 2015 “Alabama First” legislative agenda was designed to combat the liberal mandates that were being handed down by the Obama administration, and it sought to put our state firmly on the road toward being first in education and first in economic development. It included bills that reduced government regulations, promoted religious liberties, provided school choice opportunities, and extended employment incentives to businesses in rural Alabama.

In 2016, the “Right for Alabama” legislative agenda placed a continuing focus on improving education, creating jobs, reforming government, and protecting unborn life. It included the “Alabama WIRED Act,” which ensures the poorest schools in Alabama have the same broadband access as the most well-funded schools, implementation of zero-based budgeting reforms, a “Right To Work” constitutional amendment that voters ratified by an overwhelming margin, and a generous but affordable pay raise for public school teachers.

The “Alabama Proud” legislative agenda, which was unveiled in 2017, sought to highlight, improve, and protect the aspects that make our state a special place to live, work, and raise children. It included increased funding for Alabama’s nationally-recognized “First Class” Pre-K kindergarten program, implementation of an electronic notification system for active shooter situations and other school emergencies, protections for long-standing markers and statues that preserve our history, and passage of a constitutional amendment declaring Alabama a pro-life state.