State Senate Republicans identify jobs, education and families among top priorities

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Senate Republicans announced their agenda for this year’s legislative session, calling it “Continuing Positive Progress,” during a brief news conference Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) and Senate President Pro-Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) were on hand with others from the Senate Republican Caucus to discuss the group’s priorities for this year, which include spurring economic growth, protecting children and families and encouraging education excellence.

“While addressing our primary goal of passing balanced, responsible budgets, Senate Republicans will also tackle our legislative priorities,” Reed said in a news release. “The people of Alabama elected us to focus on jobs, education, and families – and we’re doing just that.”

In an effort to “spur economic growth,” Republicans plan to create “more flexibility to craft responsible, pay-as-you-go incentive packages” to create more jobs in the state. Further, Republicans plan to provide economic incentives to have companies use Alabama’s ports to ship products to the state – such products are often shipped to other ports and then brought into Alabama – which “will generate exponentially more tax revenue and jobs.”

In its effort to “protect children and families,” Senate Republicans plan to pass both child abuse bills brought up in this morning’s judiciary hearing in an effort to protect Alabama’s “most vulnerable victims of abuse.” Republicans also plan to equip K-12 teachers with the tools needed to curb the rate of youth suicide in the state, which they say is a significant problem in the state.

In its efforts to “encourage education excellence,” the Republican Caucus will support a pay raise for Alabama’s teachers, per Gov. Robert Bentley‘s proposal, and “incentivize accountability, specialized hiring and retention” by finding ways to rid the sate of ineffective educators and reward those who go above and beyond.

During the press conference, Marsh commented on his RAISE Act, which has received a lot of negative attention from educators claiming it links teacher raises to test scores and student achievement. Marsh said the act does not link the two, it simply creates a five-year tenure track that can be reversed if teachers prove ineffective in preparing students.

“We’re doing things I think are very positive,” Marsh said. “At the end of the day, we all want our children to do better.”

Asked whether a proposal by Bentley to move Education Trust Fund dollars into the General Fund would gain traction in the Legislature, Reed said he didn’t know whether “there is a significant appetite” for such a move.

In reference to a question on whether the repeal of Common Core curriculum standards would make it to the floor this year, Marsh said he is “not convinced those votes are there,” adding that it should be up to the state school board to make that decision.

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