Laying out legislative priorities
The 2022 legislative session starts Tuesday and Rep. Wes Kitchens spoke this week about some of the things likely to come up:
American Rescue Fund – “There are multiple pots of money coming in. Altogether, it could be close to a billion dollars. The money is coming in waves and we will be working closely with the Department of the Treasury to make sure what we come up with meets the guidelines. We want whatever we do to be something that is valuable long-term to the citizens of Alabama, hopefully including work on making broadband more accessible.”
Pro-Life Legislation – “This one is very important to me. We are talking about an act to streamline, clarify and improve the adoption process, making it easier for adoption agencies to get more children more easily placed in their forever homes. Pro-life legislation doesn’t just stop with abortion bills. It’s also about taking care of the children once they are born.”
First Responder Protection – “We want to pass an act that it makes it a felony to assault first responders, including firemen and paramedics. Police have this now but we want to expand it to include all first responders.”
Pre-K Expansion – “This is one of my personal issues,” Rep. Kitchens said. “I was the chairman of the Pre-K Study Commission and we will be submitting our report back to the legislature. We want to look at different partnerships to make Pre-K more accessible. We would like any family who wants to send a 4-year-old to Pre-K to be able to do so. This has become a passion of mine as I have toured Pre-K classrooms around the state.”
Budgets – “We had one of the top economies coming out of COVID. Our budgeting process allowed us to not have to go into proration. We passed a record education budget last year and I anticipate we will be able to pass another record education budget this year."
Entertainment District – The only local bill currently in the works would make an entertainment district in downtown Albertville similar to the one in Guntersville. Rep. Kerry Rich is carrying that bill since it is in his district.
Employee Bonuses – Rep. Kitchens said they are working on a plan for bonus checks for state employees, teachers and state retirees. “It has been many years since they have received a COLA or a bonus. With inflation rising, we want to do something to help them."