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Halftime Report: A Recap of the First Half of the 2013 Legislative Session

Alabama Accountability Act:
We’ve talked about it ad nauseum, but how often do you get to tweet something like this?

“Every parent deserves a choice, and every child deserves a chance,” has become the rallying cry for education reform advocates across the state. The ramifications of this bill’s passage are huge from a policy perspective, but the immediate effect has been more political. For all intents and purposes, the 2014 election cycle began the evening of February 28 when this bill was passed. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have already been spent by both sides — well ahead of the usual timetable.

ATF Repayment
Those of us in the “Don’t Bust the Trust!” camp lost last year’s Amendment 1 fight on Sept 18th, but we can take solace in the fact that Republicans have at least delivered on their repayment promise. The first bill passed this session put the state on a schedule to repay the money that was borrowed from the Alabama Trust Fund as a result of the Sept. 18 vote.

Common Core
The repeal of Common Core standards has for the last several months been the top priority for many grassroots conservatives around the state. At one point it appeared that their efforts had swung the momentum in favor of repeal. The Rainy Day Patriots’ Legislative Watchdogs group and several other Tea Party organizations were omnipresent in the halls of the State House during the week before the Common Core repeal bill was to come up in committee. Unfortunately, the public hearing on the bill stopped the momentum in its tracks.

The biggest disappointment of the first half of the session is that the repeal of Common Core was stalled in Senate Committee. The Alabama Policy Institute called Common Core “the next step in the federalization of Alabama’s education system.” I agree.

The action on Common Core now moves back over to the State Board of Education. If they don’t act, I will encourage legislative leaders to readdress this issue.

Pro-Life bill moving slower than expected
When the Women’s Health and Safety Act passed out of the House several weeks ago, it was the first major step forward for the pro-life community in Alabama in a long time. The bill passed out of the Senate Health Committee, and had made its way onto the Special Order Calendar just before Spring Break, but it didn’t come up for a vote. The Senate was cranking out efficiency measures and passed a general fund budget while the House was taking up the pro-life bill and other “We Dare Defend Our Rights” agenda items. Their legislative tracks will now be somewhat reversed after Spring Break.

It’s a disappointment that the Women’s Health and Safety Act didn’t become law during the first half of the session, but it will almost certainly be first up after the legislature returns next week. Pro-life advocates are watching this bill closely.

First half MVP: Del Marsh
Marsh masterminded the biggest legislative victory in recent memory. The idiom “herding cats” has many times been used to describe the job of Senate leadership, but Marsh has held his caucus together while dealing with an increasingly militant minority party. He’s far and away the star of the first half of the 2013 session.

Biggest underachiever: Henry Mabry
Mabry led his team to the biggest legislative defeat in their history. In spite of having about 50 lobbyists on the payroll and millions of dollars at his disposal, he allowed himself to be blindsided. Rumors have been swirling about his job security, although it’s not the first time that’s happened. But he has been on the losing end of several high-profile battles, including a failed takeover attempt of the Teachers Retirement System board — a move that was thwarted by his own membership. The perception of AEA among legislators, the general public, and even AEA members has been damaged greatly on his watch.

What else is going on?
1. Norquist releases NCAA brackets based on competitive tax climates
2. Elementary School Principal Calls AEA Vindictive and Embarrassing
3. Sessions Leads Budget Fight for Conservatives
4. Shelby Holds 1,800th Town Hall
5. Rumors & Rumblings

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