Hurst, Johnson support dual enrollment bill
by Chris Norwood
Feb 15, 2014 | 1294 views |  0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TALLADEGA COUNTY — This week’s wintry weather seemed to have much less impact on last week’s legislative session than the previous arctic blast.

“It was a lot smoother,” Rep. Steve Hurst, R-Munford, said. “Things would go pretty fast, then we’d have a lengthy filibuster for a while, then they’d speed back up again.”

The highlights of the week, according to both Hurst and Rep. Ron Johnson, R-Sylacauga, were bills involving the dual enrollment program, a partenership that lets high school students take classes at two-year colleges.

“HB 384 creates business and industry income tax credits for people who contribute to dual enrollment programs,” Hurst said. “I think that’s definitely a good thing, helping with technology programs and classes that get young people ready for the business world.”

Johnson agreed that dual-enrollment programs were important for a changing job market. “In the county system, we already had dual enrollment in place for Lincoln, Munford and (Talladega County Central High School). But there was not enough money for Childersburg, Fayetteville, Winterboro or Comer. You have $120,000 for about 120 students. You can give them the technical training at the academic end, and that was the main purpose of this legislation. It also helps to decrease the dropout rate.”

Hurst said he also voted in favor of legislation that created a business executive council to advise on work force development. “The speaker, the pro tem, the governor and other people will get appointments to that,” Hurst said. “But if we have a prospective industry looking to locate here, they can advise work force development about what kind of training they will need to set up, things like that.”

Hurst also mentioned other bills that allowed the governor to declare emergencies in specific areas of the state (rather than all 67 counties) and another that allows children who withdraw from public schools and take accredited online classes to not be counted as drop-outs for state funding purposes. Hurst said he had questions about the bill until it was amended to include the word “accredited.”

Hurst also introduced a bill that would increase the minimum incarceration of someone convicted of a sexual offense against a victim over the age of 65 from 10 years to 20 years. “You’re seeing more and more of that kind of thing,” Hurst said. “It’s pitiful. I’m known as a strong protector of the young, but the elderly need to be protected also.”

For the last several sessions, Hurst has introduced legislation requiring that people convicted of sex crimes against people under 12 not be released from prison without surgical castration. Constitutionally, according to many, this is a non-starter, so Hurst is now introducing legislation to keep those guilty of sex crimes against children behind bars for life. That bill is still in committee.

Hurst is also sponsoring legislation that would set aside 15 minutes out of each school day to look a day from the historic congressional record, including the prayer. “It’s not praying, it’s just reading a prayer that’s already in the congressional record,” he explained. “It shows how the system works.”

As for a bill reforming the practice of payday and title lenders, Hurst said there was some controversy, but nothing was resolved.

“I asked that the bill be assigned to my committee, but they chose not to do so,” he said. “I will work with whoever I need to, and hopefully there will be some resolution,” he said.

A bill sponsored by Johnson passed the house and is on its way to the senate, with the Talladega County Commission on record in opposition. HB 148 would make it easier for county roads to be abandoned.

“As it is now,” Johnson explained, “you have to have a motion from the commissioner whose district the road is in. Then you need a unanimous vote. This bill says you just need a majority vote, which is how we do things.”

He said other county commissions had supported the change, and the Jefferson County delegation had amended the law to allow for appeals to circuit court if the commission decided not to abandon a road.

“That bill is going on to the Senate, so we’ll see how it works out. But we don’t need a situation where one person is controlling everything. Hopefully this will make that more workable.”

It was a fairly slow week in the Senate, according to Sen. Jerry Fielding, R-Sylacauga.

“We passed one bill Tuesday, an anti-smoking bill that is going to the house. It outlaws smoking in public places with some exceptions, bars, I think. Then Wednesday, we passed 11 bills, including one about airbag fraud, a bill that would exempt those with more than 15 years experience from tighter regulations for barbers and cosmetologists, and a bill to require payment of probate court costs up front instead of after the fact.

Four bills were passed by the Senate on Thursday, including a drug bill dealing with outlawed chemicals, the seizure of money and other property during arrests and a non-controversial constitutional amendment that updated outdated language and combined various sections. Fielding was a sponsor of the latter.

The banking and health committees also took up some matters, but the Judiciary Committee saw the most action, including passage of bills exempting people over the age of 70 from jury service, barring sex offenders against children from living within 500 feet of a public school and adding boating to the list of criminally negligent homicide crimes.

The committee also sent out bills allowing debt collection against tax refunds for cities and counties and sovereign immunity for public school employees against civil suits.

The committee also approved changes to the open meetings act, which would outlaw serial meetings.

“We worked pretty closely with the cities and counties on this. The bill would also allow individuals to file suit if there is a violation, and it sets the penalties at for violation at one months salary or $1,000, which ever is more.”

“This will tighten up the loopholes and get everyone on the same page,” he said.

Rep. Barbara Boyd, D-Anniston, was not available for comment.

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