Yesterday’s Lobby Day turned out to be fun. It’s easy for me to forget that our legislators are just regular people who, for the most part, actually like to hear from their constituents.
We started out with a briefing session on the issues that Alabama Arise is highlighting this year and on the related bills under consideration. This being Alabama, most of those issues — like constitutional reform, tax reform, campaign finance reform, and public transportation – are ongoing concerns, but we did celebrate a couple of victories from the last legislative session: the passage of a landlord-tenant bill and a bill that began to move the state toward tax fairness.
Then we went on the hunt for our legislators. The House had just adjourned for lunch, but the Senate was in session. I don’t know what the Senators were doing, given that they’ve been deadlocked in a rules dispute, but I do know someone was speaking — the audio is broadcast into the offices. Our mission was to remind the legislators that Arise was hosting a lunch/reception for them in the Capitol Tunnel. FYI, this is the only meal Arise buys for legislators each year.
The reception was well-attended. I was glad to see Rep. Greg Canfield (R-Vestavia Hills) and Rep. Paul DeMarco (R-Homewood) there, talking with Arise supporters from around the state. Both are (relatively) new to the legislature, and they live, as I do, in the Over the Mountain bubble. It’s good for them to speak with citizens who aren’t overwhelmingly white, healthy, and financially secure — and, to give them the credit they deserve, they’re both eager for input.
I talked to Rep. Jeff McLaughlin (D-Guntersville), who is rapidly becoming my new hero. He’s the sponsor of HB 120, the PAC-to-PAC transfer ban, which has passed the House and is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday. Jeff is trying to quash attempts to add other provisions to the bill for fear they will kill it, and those of us who want to see the Senate pass it need to contact the committee members and give them our input.
Of course, our own Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham) was there. She is a staunch supporter of the Arise agenda.
The highlight of the day was Rep. John Knight‘s announcement of the 2007 Tax Fairness Plan. Those of you who follow Alabama politics know that, until last year, the state levied income tax on a family of four making $4,600 a year. The threshold is now $12,600, still well below the poverty line. The proposed bill would raise it to $17,800 a year, by increasing the standard deduction and the dependent deduction (for all income levels), and it would also remove the state portion of the sales tax on groceries (4%). It would make up for the estimated $540 million cost by removing the deduction for federal income taxes. Alabama is one of only three states that still allows this deduction (in full), and it’s not as great as it sounds. Middle income families only save an average of $66 a year. Sounds like they’ll do better under the new plan.