MONTGOMERY, AL - Alabama's Republican state senators have released their 2017 legislative agenda, which they're calling "Strengthen Alabama". The agenda calls for tax cuts, reforming of state government, protecting residents' Second Amendment rights, and protections for sanctity of life and religious freedom.
Here's the agenda, as released by the AL GOP Senate caucus:
- style="margin-left: 40px;">Crackdown on Medicaid Fraud
The state Medicaid program is a source of health insurance for one million children and disabled adults across Alabama, but it is also the primary cost to taxpayers in the General Fund budget. Senate Republicans will upgrade Medicaid fraud to a Class C felony and include partnerships, corporations, and associations in the definition of a "person" eligible for prosecution under the law.
- style="margin-left: 40px;">Judicial Resources Allocation Commission
To ensure the fair distribution of district judges across Alabama, Senate Republicans will support the creation of a Judicial Resources Allocation Commission, headed by the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. The Commission will review the need for judgeships in each district, using criteria that include population size, caseload, and judicial duties. Any re-allocation would require a two-thirds vote of the Commission and would only occur in the event of a vacancy. No sitting judges would be affected, and each county would be assured of maintaining at least one district judge.
Protect Second Amendment Rights
- style="margin-left: 40px;">Permitless Carry
Ten states across the country allow their citizens to carry guns without a permit, and Senate Republicans believe Alabamians should have a similarly unimpeded right to protect their families and property. Therefore, a repeal of the requirement for a conceal carry permit shall be a priority in the 2017 session. Alabamians could still apply for a pistol permit in order to carry a gun in states like Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida that have reciprocity laws with Alabama. A pistol permit holder would also retain the benefit of foregoing a background check when purchasing firearms.
Provide Tax Cuts for Alabamians
- style="margin-left: 40px;">Lessen the Tax Burden on Working Families
Currently, taxpayers can choose whichever is higher between a standard or itemized deduction on their Alabama income tax return. Standard deductions are based on the adjustable gross income of the filer. Senate Republicans are committed to lessening the tax burden on working Alabamians and will start by raising the income threshold to $23,000 for the highest available deduction, and increasing the deduction ceiling to $33,000 for the married-filing-jointly, heads of family, and single persons. (A comparable tax break will be given to married-filing-separately). More than 180,000 Alabamians will see a net decrease in taxes owed to the state.
Uphold the Sanctity of Life & Protect Religious Freedom
- style="margin-left: 40px;">Protect the Weak and Vulnerable
Senate Republicans pledge to pursue legislation in the 2017 session that will protect the weak and vulnerable from exploitation. Recognizing that a so-called "right to die" can drift easily into a "duty to die," Senate Republicans will uphold a culture of life in Alabama by banning assisted suicide, reflecting the belief that the lives of the vulnerable are as equally valued as the lives of the young and healthy.
WSFA 12 News reached out to Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange's office regarding the assisted suicide topic, and his office said it would be considered murder under Alabama law and is, therefore, illegal.
- style="margin-left: 40px;">Uphold the Religious Freedom Rights of Child-Placing Agencies
Religious organizations in Alabama have a long and storied history of providing orphans and neglected children with placement in new homes. Senate Republicans will support a proposal to ensure that the state will not discriminate against child-placing agencies because the agency declines to provide a child placement which conflicts with the religious beliefs of the provider.