Bill would put prayer back in schools
by Will Heath
Feb 08, 2014 | 1794 views |  0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
ST. CLAIR COUNTY — Rep. Mack Butler says he believes many who work in public education are fearful of any talk related to religion.

"It's not that there's animosity," Butler said. "People are scared to death to touch it."

Butler, R-Rainbow City, is proposing legislation for the second straight — the legislation made it out of the House in 2013, but did not pass the Senate — which he says "reinforces a student's right to express their religious beliefs."

The bill, he says, will allow students to write about the Bible from a historical or literary point of view, as well as express admiration for characters within the text for academic purposes.

"It allows for, if it's just a normal curriculum, you can express your religious views," he said.

Butler also said the bill will "put prayer 100 percent legal, back in school, in the state of Alabama."

"We've gotten a lot of support for this," he said. "I do anticipate a public hearing on it, and I expect to pass it."

Rep. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, was also working on education related legislation this week. McClendon is once again preparing legislation that will replace textbooks with tablets in public schools. He said he expects the bill to come before the Education Ways and Means Committee this week.

"It would replace a lot of things," McClendon said. "Replaces textbooks, and a lot of school systems wouldn't have backpacks anymore because they don't need them. They'd replace copy machines, because they wouldn't need them or copy paper or ink or that kind of thing.

"It's a huge transition. A lot of people have to be brought in. There's a pretty big expense involved in getting the infrastructure in place; it's a $100 million bond issue if it stays intact."

Rep. Randy Wood, R-Anniston, brought up legislation he actually passed through the House of Representatives last week, after the session was restored. Wood said the legislation will toughen the state's law for burglary.

"Right now in the state of Alabama, if someone breaks in your home and you're not there, it's a Class C felony," Wood said. "If you're at home, or your spouse or child is there, then it's a Class B felony.

"Whether you're at home or not, we're making all of it a Class B felony. It sends more of a message to the outlaw, because he knows exactly what his crime is. He's going to wait and watch. A Class B felony is a good bit of jail time, and he doesn’t want that. This maybe will make him think twice."

State Senate president pro tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said the Senate is discussing legislation that will change state retirees from a cost-of-living adjustment to a bonus system.

".The discussion was to move more toward a bonus system than a COLA system," Marsh said. "A COLA is a long-term obligation, where a bonus is a one-time deal. The private sector doesn't pay cost-of-living increases to retirees. When you retire, you've got a pension and it is what it is.

"For some reason, the state instituted a system where retirees receive cost-of-living increases. It's created a huge unfunded liability on the retirement system, and we're trying to get that under control."

Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, and Rep. Dickie Drake, R-Leeds, were unavailable for comment at press time.

Contact Will Heath at wheath@thestclairtimes.com.