Looking forward to a successful session

By SLADE BLACKWELL/State Senator

Over the past few months, I have studied bills to consider sponsoring in this next session and met with constituents to talk about issues and how we can solve them. I am working now to finalize bills and then will be heading to Montgomery at the beginning of January to start the 2014 Legislative Session. While there are many things I would like to see the legislature accomplish during the legislative session, some of the ones I am working on include pro-business bills, Pre-K funding and passing fiscally responsible budgets.

Business

As a small business owner, I firmly believe small businesses are the backbone of our economy in Alabama. We must continue to find ways to protect our existing businesses while also making it easier to do business in the state. As I have referenced in a few of my previous articles, I am a big proponent of streamlining the business license system in Alabama. I am currently working with several of my legislative colleagues to sponsor a bill to reform the business license system by simplifying and streamlining the state and county business license process.

Pre-K

Alabama has one of the best Pre-K programs in the nation. However, we must continue providing the adequate funding in order to maintain this status as well as make it more accessible. Last year we were able to increase Pre-K funding in the state by $9.4 million, bringing it to a total of $28.5 million. While the ideal situation would be to increase the funding by even more this year, it will be tough to do this given the projected budget numbers. It might be a tough fight but I will continue to work hard to ensure that this happens.

Budgets

Under Alabama law, the legislature must pass both the Education Trust Fund (ETF) budget and the General Fund budget during the legislative session. Every year this is always a battle. According to the Legislative Fiscal Office, the General Fund is estimated at $1.6 billion for 2015 with expected increases requested from Medicaid and Corrections. The ETF estimate will not be released until the session starts but it is estimated to be higher than the $5.7 billion appropriated last year.

I am excited about the upcoming legislative session and hope we can pass smart, meaningful legislation that will benefit the state of Alabama. I hope you all have a safe and wonderful holiday season.

Slade Blackwell represents parts of Shelby and Jefferson counties in the Alabama State Senate.