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Steve Flowers: Workforce package will have big impact

By Steve Flowers

As former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Sam Rayburn once said, and I’ll paraphrase, “Any fool can kick down a barn, but it takes a good carpenter to build one.” In our political landscape today, from Washington, D.C. down, we have plenty of folks kicking down barns, but not nearly enough carpenters building them.

During the most recent legislative session, the legislature passed a package of bills called “Working for Alabama,” which is a prime example of building good, effective policy that will serve to address several real problems facing Alabama’s economy – a package that has the potential to pay out in dividends for generations to come.

Anyone who is familiar with the legislative process knows that killing a bill is easy, but passing a bill of consequence is very difficult. Of the six ambitious bills included in the Working for Alabama package, every single one was passed within 50 days of their introduction – that is a real feat.

One of the primary goals of this package was to solve Alabama’s demonstrably low labor force participation rate, which, ranking at 47 in the nation, puts us at the bottom of the list when it comes to having folks working and engaged in our economy. Any small business owner in our state is well aware of this issue, as it is one of the leading problems they face every day. We know this by the sheer number of “now hiring” signs on store fronts across our state.

Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth recognized this problem and worked with elected officials and leaders in the private sector to lay the groundwork to create a solution aimed at solving this problem. In 2019, Ainsworth led a new commission to identify the problems causing Alabama’s low workforce participation rate and, more importantly, to develop ways to solve it. After several years of diligent work, which included input from fellow elected officials and private sector leaders, such as Alabama Power’s President and CEO Jeff Peoples and Power South Energy’s President and CEO Gary Smith – some of our state’s top employers, Ainsworth’s commission created a report that included ambitious policy solutions aimed to tackle this problem and create economic success for our state for years to come.

Ainsworth’s commission laid the groundwork for the policy solutions that comprised the “Working for Alabama “package, and they will serve Alabama’s economy well for years and even decades to come. The solutions in this package are common sense, well thought out, and represent policies that we should all be able to get behind. This includes streamlining and making more efficient Alabama’s workforce development strategies and programs, creating accountability to make sure that what our state is doing is actually working, a concept all too often lacking in government bureaucracy, and making sure that the people who actually employ Alabamians have a seat at the table when it comes to making these key decisions. That, along with resources such as a childcare tax credit, to make the ever-more expensive childcare services affordable for working parents – demonstrate just a few key issues included in this package.

This past legislative session was contentious in many ways, with divisive issues such as gaming causing sharp divides between the Alabama House, Senate and the Governor’s Office. However, in large part thanks to Ainsworth’s leadership, a coalition of elected leaders – both Republican and Democrat, along with our state’s business community, the legislature was able to put those issues aside and come together to get something done for our state that will impact virtually all Alabamians.

This package gave our state’s leaders, including Governor Kay Ivey, House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter, Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed, and Democrat Leaders Anthony Daniels and Bobby Singleton, an issue in which they could put their partisanship aside and work together on addressing common sense solutions to very real Alabama challenges.

The instigation of this monumental Working for Alabama program came about in large part due to the efforts of Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth.

See you next week.


Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at [email protected].


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