Issues for legislative session

By SLADE BLACKWELL / Guest Columnist

The Alabama State Legislature will begin the 2012 legislative session on Feb. 7 in Montgomery.

The legislature was very efficient and successful in passing several necessary bills in 2011, and I hope this work ethic will continue into our next session as well. There are a few important issues that will be addressed during the session including prison overcrowding, charter schools, as well as job growth and economic development.

-Prison overcrowding — I look forward to continuing to work with Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) to research ways in which we can alleviate the overcrowded prisons in our state. Alabama’s prison system is 193 percent overcrowded — the highest in the nation.

We simply cannot accommodate all of the prisoners in the state with our current system.

We will continue to look for ways to improve and uphold public safety while keeping the budget in mind. We must address this issue soon or it will continue to plague our state.

-Charter schools — The charter schools issue has come up several times in previous legislative sessions, but with a Republican-controlled legislature focused on education improvements as one of our top priorities, charter schools may be something strongly considered.

Alabama is one of a few states that do not currently allow charter schools.

A charter school would operate and be held to the same standards as public schools, but are allowed more freedom with the curriculum and learning styles.

-Job growth and economic development — Job growth and economic development continue to be our main priority and several legislative items will address this issue.

We will continue to find ways to spur job growth in the state through incentives and tax credits providing new job opportunities for Alabamians.

However, while we must work hard to recruit new businesses to the state, we also must keep existing businesses and jobs in Alabama.

I am looking forward to what the 2012 legislative session will bring and believe we can continue to move Shelby County and the state of Alabama in a positive direction through effective legislation.

Slade Blackwell is serving his first term in the Alabama State Senate representing Jefferson and Shelby Counties in District 15.