Lee County benefits from legislative session-From the Opelika-Auburn News

May 28, 2013

As the speaker of the House, I had the honor of presiding over the 2013 legislative session, a session many believe to be among the most historic in Alabama’s history.


From unprecedented education reforms to broadened gun rights protections to a continued emphasis on economic development initiatives, many of the measures approved by the Alabama Legislature will improve the quality of life for Alabamians for generations to come.


On the home front, I stood firm to protect funding for Auburn University, which resulted in a $243 million appropriation for the AU system. This represents an increase of several million over last year’s allotment and exceeds the four year average awarded to the school.


Our efforts to create jobs and recruit businesses to the area also continued to pay off, as Lee County currently holds the second-lowest unemployment rate in the state. Because of concrete results like this along with the hard work and cooperation of community leaders and the Auburn family, Forbes Magazine recently ranked the Auburn-Opelika area 10th in the nation among “America’s Best Small Cities for Jobs.” Evidence of our meteoric success is the fact that just last year, Forbes ranked us 63rd.


At the statewide level, my colleagues and I joined together prior to the session to announce a sweeping and aggressive list of House Republican proposals we named the “We Dare Defend Our Rights” agenda. In addition to playing on Alabama’s official state motto, the agenda was designed to combat continuing constitutional overreaches by President Barack Obama, Washington, D.C., liberals and the ever-encroaching federal government.


Within a few days of convening, the House passed measures that rolled back the tentacles of Obamacare in our state, reduced red tape for small-business owners, and ensured the timely and complete repayment of $437 million that voters borrowed from the Alabama Trust Fund in a referendum election held last year. Other equally important bills of significance were approved as well, but space limitations prevent me from referencing them here.


Perhaps the most groundbreaking reform we adopted was the Alabama Accountability Act, a law designed to help parents and children trapped in failing public schools escape to better learning environments. It also provides all public schools with the flexibility they need to deviate from mandates from Montgomery, to be innovative in order to become more efficient and better educate kids.


At its core, the Auburn-Opelika area values education greatly and houses some of the best-performing public schools in the state, but, let’s face it, not every community is as fortunate. There are areas of the state where failing schools far outnumber the successful ones, and even the more promising students there are doomed to sub-par educations and a resulting lack of opportunity after graduation — assuming they actually graduate.


The Alabama Accountability Act will bring hope to those areas where hope does not currently exist by providing a $3,500 tax credit to parents who transfer their children from a failing school to a non-failing public or private school in their area. A series of precise criteria included in the law determines whether a school is considering failing.


Just as competitors force businesses to improve quality, service and products for their customers in order to maintain a share of the market, the school choice portion of the Accountability Act will do the same for education. Failing schools will finally get the incentive they need in order to improve.


To put it concisely, if we continue to keep doing the same thing in public education, we will continue to get the same results. It is time to take bold new steps and leave the broken status quo behind.


As a local small-businessman with a college-professor wife and two boys in quality public schools, I am proud to live and work in Auburn and Lee County. I believe each of the initiatives we passed in 2013 legislative session will not only benefit our community, but improve areas of the state which need it the most.


That’s a fact of which I am very proud.


Rep. Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, is the speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives and represents House District 79. Visit mikehubbard.com and facebook.com/MikeHubbard79 or follow Hubbard on Twitter via @SpeakerHubbard.