By TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Alabama Policy Institute recently conducted polling that indicates state voters support a slate of proposed legislative items aimed at helping Alabama rebound from the coronavirus outbreak.
Last month, the Birmingham-based conservative think tank released a multi-faceted proposal called the “RESTORE Alabama Plan” that included six recommended policy initiatives:
- Protecting businesses from frivolous coronavirus-related lawsuits;
- Reforming the process for declaring public health emergencies to involve the Legislature;
- Using federal CARES Act money to fund broadband infrastructure expansion;
- Suspending the Certificate of Need approval process for health care facilities for a year;
- Reauthorizing and revising the Alabama Jobs Act, an incentive that is the state’s primary job recruitment tool;
- Establishing education savings accounts that would allow parents and students more portability to a school of their choice.
According to a survey conducted by Cygnal on behalf of API, each of these policy proposals is supported by a strong majority of Alabama voters.
API / Cygnal Poll Results
Should the state…
Enact a bill to protect businesses, churches, non-profits, and others from lawsuits related to the Coronavirus, giving them immunity from claims by citizens infected with COVID-19.
In the event of future public health emergencies, the power to issue quarantines and shutdown orders should be jointly shared between the state legislature and the governor, rather than all power resting with the governor alone.
Use the federal CARES Act funds and rainy-day monies to install internet connectivity in every corner of the state, improving access to telemedicine and educational opportunities.
Extend the current suspension of Certificate of Need (“CON”) requirements, which require hospitals and care facilities to get state approval to add more beds to their facilities. This would remove barriers restricting the availability of quality healthcare until we are fully past this current crisis.
Renew the Alabama Jobs Act to incentivize the growth of existing business and the recruitment of new employers to the State, while also ensuring Alabama businesses that received Paycheck Protection Program money aren’t taxed on those dollars.
Expand school choice, so that families with children in failing schools should have the option to move to a better school of their choice.
Additionally, the survey tested whether voters think Gov. Kay Ivey should call a special session of the Alabama Legislature to specifically address coronavirus-related issues. A full 70.8% of voters said they supported calling a special session compared to 9.3% who opposed and 15.9% who weren’t sure.
Do you support or oppose Governor Kay Ivey calling a special legislative session to specifically address issues caused by the coronavirus outbreak?
It is unclear whether a special session of the Legislature will be called later this year. Last month, lawmakers returned to Montgomery for a truncated end to this year’s regular session and passed the state budgets along with legislation allocating $1.8 billion in federal CARES Act funds.
However, several measures once thought of as priorities were not taken up, including the renewal of two state job recruitment statutes that expire this year and a coronavirus legal immunity bill sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur. The Legislature also did not address prison reform, although a slate of bills on the subject was moving through the process before the outbreak upended the session.
Some lawmakers, including two top Senate leaders, have said a special session is not necessary and that the Legislature can address unfinished business when the 2021 regular session convenes next February.
Standing out in the Cygnal poll was the overwhelming support for the general prospect of expanding school choice. Alabama Daily News recently reported that the State Department of Education is moving forward with a plan to build a statewide online learning portal that would allow students to take classes from home this fall if parents are concerned about them returning to school. State Superintendent Eric Mackey has described it as an expansion of school choice, though it is unknown whether funding for the program will extend beyond the coronavirus emergency.
The survey was conducted using Cygnal’s “mixed mode” methodology that uses live phone calls, text messages and email to contact respondents. In all, 530 voters were surveyed according to state voter demographics. The margin for error is +/-4.26%.