Week Three of the Legislative Session

Words by Rep. Matt Woods | Image courtesy Rep. Matt Woods

I’ll start this week where we left off last week: Governor Ivey’s “Game Plan,” the package of economic incentives bills that renew and expand the state’s highly successful economic development efforts. Alabama has experienced unprecedented success in economic development over the past several years, but to ensure our incentives remain competitive with other states, they must be reviewed and renewed every four years.

Last week, the Alabama House approved the renewed package of economic development incentives designed to keep our state among the national leaders in recruitment and expansion. The Alabama Jobs Act that provides rebates to companies locating here based upon their annual payroll. The Growing Alabama Act that assists economic development groups with site prep and increases the cap from $20 million to $35 million. The package also includes a transparency bill that requires the Alabama Department of Commerce to increase transparency by posting information related to awarded incentives on its website, so it is available to the public. I anticipate these bills will pass in the Senate and soon become law. That will be a very good thing.

On Tuesday, the Alabama House awarded final passage to the Deputy Brad Johnson Act, which would reform the way early release “good time” credits are awarded to prison inmates. Good-time incentives reduce the time that inmates serve in prison based on their good behavior behind bars. Last year, Bibb County Deputy Brad Johnson was shot and killed by a felon who had his prison sentence dramatically shortened under Alabama’s “good time” law despite having bad behavior while incarcerated.

This new bill would keep convicted persons in prison longer and outlines certain actions that can cause an inmate to become ineligible for good time. It also requires the Alabama Department of Corrections to submit a yearly report detailing how good time incentives are being awarded. The bill, in short, makes “good time” credits an earned privilege – not an automatic right – and takes a firm step toward truth in sentencing.

On a more personal level, I introduced my first bill last week. It is designed to provide money to improve roads and bridges without raising taxes (something everyone knows that we need in Walker County). If passed, the bill would make unclaimed fiduciary funds across the state available to improve roads and bridges in the home county where the money is sitting. Unclaimed fiduciary funds are usually monies that are left behind when someone passes away that has no family or heirs to claim the money. Currently, the monies just sit in the county treasury where that person lived, but it can’t be spent on anything. Essentially, the money just sits there forever. My bill would send that unclaimed money to the the county road and bridge fund, after it has been unclaimed for a minimum of 15 years, with the stipulation that it must go to improve roads or bridges in that county. The bill passed the House and will be in a Senate committee next week. We’ll see what happens. WL

Representative Matt Woods represents Alabama State House District 13, which covers parts of Walker County. You can contact him at matt.woods@alhouse.gov.

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