GUEST COLUMN: A productive session

By Cam Ward

The regular session of the Alabama Legislature ended on June 9, and there was a great deal to be proud of for the people of our state. A new majority was elected in 2010, and we stayed true to our principles of less government, less taxes and more personal responsibility.

We ran on a pledge entitled, “The Republican Handshake with Alabama,” and every bill in that pledge has passed and been signed by Gov. Robert Bentley. We passed a comprehensive plan to crack down on illegal immigration that makes it a crime to be illegally present in Alabama. The new law also protects jobs for Alabama citizens and legal residents. The bill, most importantly, ensures that recipients of taxpayer funded public services are legal Alabama residents.

Another “Handshake” bill signed by the governor is “The Public Official Transparency Act,” which requires public disclosure of the names of public officials, candidates, or spouses of public officials or candidates who are employed by the state or who have a contract with the state.

In addition, the governor signed “The Rolling Reserve Act,” which greatly reduces the risk of proration in the state’s budgets by basing revenue estimates on a 15-year rolling average. We also enacted a law to allow small business employers and employees to deduct 200 percent of the amount they pay in health insurance premiums from their state income tax.

The Legislature also passed a historic package of tort reform bills aimed at curbing lawsuit abuse and improving Alabama’s court system. Working with other GOP Senators and the business community, I sponsored or co-sponsored a majority of these bills. I am proud to say that Gov. Bentley signed them all into law on the last day of the session.

This year, I also joined Gov. Bentley in tackling a bloated budget problem resulting from indigent defense services in our state. The cost of this program has increased by 110 percent in the last five years, to the point where it was costing double what we spend on prosecuting criminals in Alabama. With the help of both parties, my legislation preserved the constitutionally mandated requirements of indigent services while also saving the state more than $23 million.

Finally, we passed both of my bills to close loopholes in the sex offender laws in our state and improve notification requirements for victims of crimes. Both of these important measures followed through with my pledge to always keep the rights of victims above those of criminals.

This is just a snapshot of some of the legislation we enacted into law this session. I look forward to visiting with everyone in the district over the next few months. Please feel free to view my website at www.camward.com for a complete list of all of the legislative accomplishments and other issues impacting our community.

–Cam Ward is the state senator representing Chilton County.

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