A tax cut for Alabama families making less than $100,000 a year and a plan to offer tax incentives to small businesses that offer health insurance to employees are among priorities for Republicans in the Alabama House in the upcoming session of the Legislature.
Both bills are also priorities of Republican Gov. Bob Riley and were introduced, but did not pass, in the last session of the Legislature. The bills are being sponsored by Rep. Jay Love, R-Montgomery.
House Republicans, at a statehouse news conference Thursday, released a list of 11 issues they said would be priorities in the session that begins Feb. 5.
Other priorities for Republicans include legislation requiring immigrants to prove legal residency before they receive public benefits, a bill mandating that public officials disclose public funds they receive through employment or contracts with public agencies, and a measure to strengthen Alabama's law requiring motorists to have liability insurance.
House Republican Caucus chairman Rep. Mike Hubbard of Auburn urged Democratic leaders to allow the Republican agenda items to receive open debate on the House floor.
Hubbard said he feels the timing is right for the tax cut bill and the measure to give small businesses a tax break for providing health insurance to employees despite the current downturn in the economy and the projected shortfalls in next year's state budgets.
"It's the best time to do it. It will stimulate business and stimulate the economy. It will encourage people to buy things," Hubbard said.
The bill by Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, to make immigrants prove their legal status before receiving public assistance was part of a package of Republican endorsed immigration bills that have failed in the Legislature in recent sessions.
"This issue we cannot ignore. The public is demanding that we address it," said Hammon, a member of a commission set up by the Legislature to study the illegal immigration issue. "I have brought immigration bills year after year and have yet to have a vote come up on the House floor."
Rep. Mike Ball, R-Huntsville, is pushing the bill to require all elected public officials to disclose on the Internet other sources of public income. The bill comes in the wake of criticism of legislators who work in the two-year college system or hold jobs with other public agencies.
Ball said the disclosure form would be simple and easy for state residents to find on the Internet.
Hubbard said Republicans feel it's time to toughen the state's law requiring motorists to have liability insurance. Hubbard sponsored the 1999 bill that first made mandatory insurance a requirement.
He said the new bill would allow county officials to check if a motorist is insured when he buys his car tags and make it illegal for motorists to buy insurance and immediately drop it.
"You wouldn't be able to buy insurance and then drive around with the proof of insurance card for six months," Hubbard said.
Source: Associated Press