Legislators discuss upcoming session

Talking points: State Sen. Cam Ward (pictured) and six other local legislators shared their thoughts on a gamut of issues during a Jan. 8 legislative preview session at the Greater Shelby County Chamber of Commerce’s offices. (Neal Wagner | Shelby County Reporter)

Talking points: State Sen. Cam Ward (pictured) and six other local legislators shared their thoughts on a gamut of issues during a Jan. 8 legislative preview session at the Greater Shelby County Chamber of Commerce’s offices. (Neal Wagner | Shelby County Reporter)

By Neal Wagner | Shelby County Reporter

Chilton County’s legislative delegation were among those who shared their thoughts on topics ranging from Common Core educational standards to expanding the state’s Medicaid rolls during a question-and-answer session a few days ahead of the 2014 legislative session.

In addition to Rep. Kurt Wallace, R-Maplesville, and Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, state Reps. Mary Sue McClurkin, R-Indian Springs, Jim Carns, R-Birmingham, Jim McClendon, R-Springville, April Weaver, R-Brierfield, and state Sen. Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills, fielded questions from about 75 people during a legislative preview session sponsored by the Greater Shelby County Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.

During the session, the legislators shared their thoughts on Common Core education standards, which would standardize Alabama’s public education system based on nationwide criteria.

Wallace and Ward, along with McClurkin, Carns, McClendon and Weaver, said they opposed Common Core standards, as it would “federalize” Alabama’s education system.

“It’s just another way the feds are telling us how to run our lives down here,” McClendon said. “You can rest assured I will oppose Common Core.”

Waggoner said he would side with the Alabama Department of Education on the Common Core issue.

“I’ve talked with the state Board of Education, and they liked the Common Core idea,” Waggoner said, noting the issue likely will be “debated at length” in 2015. “If I had to vote on it this year, I would stand by the state Board of Education.”

The local legislators also said they were opposed to expanding the state’s Medicaid enrollment. McClendon said the state currently has about 930,000 residents on Medicaid, and said Alabama financially is “having trouble taking care of what we’ve got now.”

McClendon said the federal government has agreed to cover the expense of a Medicaid expansion for two years, but said Alabama would be required to pick up 10 percent of the cost in three years.

“You are simply adding to the welfare rolls,” McClendon said. “All that’s doing is kicking the ball down the road to the next legislature.”

The legislators also shared their recent efforts to add efficiencies to state government. In 2013, Ward sponsored a bill to consolidate control of state agencies’ vehicle fleets, Weaver sponsored the “Red Tape Reduction Act” to cut down on the amount of paperwork small businesses are required to fill out and Waggoner said he worked to reduce the number of state agencies with law enforcement responsibilities from 22 to six.

McClendon said he has pre-filed a bill for the 2014 legislative session to begin replacing school textbooks with electronic readers and tablets.

“That will save $15 (million) to $20 million a year, and that’s easy to document,” McClendon said. “That will get our students into the 21st century.”

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