Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed, R-Jasper, said during the 2018 Regular Session he is looking at introducing a bill for jobs incentives in rural areas and predicted work on a broadband initiative.
Moreover, as the Alabama Legislature begins its latest session today, Reed wants to address a number of issues so rural areas can latch on to the current economic growth in the state, which is now resulting in record low unemployment rates.
“We’re going to have to stay focused on rural Alabama if Alabama is going to be all we want her to be economically,” Reed said. “We can’t just have growth be along the I-65 corridor, which is very important to our state. But for us to have growth in GDP across Alabama that is going to compete with surrounding states, we’re going to have to make sure everybody gets in on the economic growth. That means we’re going to have to have to focus on issues in rural Alabama that will allow us to grow, and they have been. But we need to look for ways to help that.”
“Another piece of legislation that is going to be pretty hot is a broadband initiative,” he said. “Sen. (Clay) Scofield from up in Marshall County has been working for a couple of years that involves all the stakeholders related to rural broadband and being able to do some things in rural areas.”
Reed said three things will have to be present in rural Alabama to take advantage of the current economic growth. That includes the internet and broadband access, healthcare access and job training involving the high schools and two-year colleges offering job training programs. He said those programs would allow “young folks in our communities or the folks who need to be retrained in our communities to meet the demand for those jobs, those 21st Century opportunities that we’re going to being trying to recruit and have been successfully recruiting in areas across the state.
“That is going to be a topic important to me is looking at issues on the effect of how do we make sure rural Alabama gets in on the economic growth opportunities that are happening within our state,” he said.
Reed said children in his district have been able to benefit from several pre-K programs, and he thinks they will continue to get “robust funding,” and the topic will get much discussion.
He also predicted discussion of saving funds in the Education Trust Fund Budget to fund possible capital improvements projects for both the two-year schools and K-12 schools, requiring match payments from local school boards and others. However, he did not think it would be a top priority in the wake of pre-K and pay increases, and it is too early to say how such a program would turn out. However, he said it will be discussed as a number of two-year schools and school boards are looking for additional resources for capital improvements.
Also, Reed doubts the state gas tax will be raised, noting he and other senators are working on an infrastructure study group that is involving universities across the state in a study of infrastructure such as rural broadband, roads, bridges, ports and waterways. While he said that has generated much discussion, he doubts actual legislation will result this year.
Constitutional carry, involving eliminating pistol permit fees for carrying a concealed gun, will likely come up again with much debate, Reed said, noting it passed before in the Senate but died in the House. He said he supports the legislation.