Establish Term Limits for State Legislators
It is not uncommon for elected representatives to spend decades in Montgomery in either or both houses. Currently, there are no term limits for those serving in the Alabama legislature. The lack of term limits contributes to a narrow-minded view of government and its role and makes the on-ramps toward corruption less steep. Because of these challenges and no lack of qualified individuals in our state who might seek elected office, the legislature should establish term limits.
Today, there are fourteen states that have established term limits.
- Maine – Eight years in each house
- California – Twelve years between both houses
- Colorado – Eight years in each house
- Arkansas – 16 years in each house
- Michigan – Six years in the House, eight years in the Senate • Ohio – Eight years in each house
- South Dakota – Eight years in each house • Montana – Eight years in each house
- Arizona – Eight years in each house
- Missouri – Eight years in each house
- Oklahoma – Twelve years between both houses • Nebraska – Eight years in their unicameral body • Louisiana – Twelve years in each house
- Nevada – Twelve years in each house
Legislative Ability to Call Itself Into Session
Currently, the Alabama legislature can only act in the predetermined session dates during the first half of the calendar year or when the governor calls a special session. This is a massive imbalance in the balance of power. 36 state legislatures can call a special session on their own without the governor’s approval. The legislature should pass a constitutional amendment allowing lawmakers the ability to call themselves into special session at any time. Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, and Louisiana are included in the aforementioned 36. • Florida – 1) Upon the filing with the Department of State of a joint proclamation by the president of the Senate and speaker of the House or 2) if three-fifths of the members of both houses respond affirmatively to a poll by the Department of State—the poll being initiated by certificates from 20 percent of the members of the legislature.
- Georgia – Upon presentation to the governor of a petition signed by three-fifths of the members of each house, with a copy to the secretary of state.
- Louisiana – By written petition of a majority of the members elected to each house to the presiding officers of both houses.
- Tennessee – By the presiding officers of both houses, upon written request of two-thirds of the members of each chamber.
Legislature Should Be Empowered to Approve or Reject Prolonged States of Emergency
Currently, Alabama’s governor has the power to declare states of emergency for up to sixty days.These states of emergency, however, may be renewed as many times as the governor sees fit, creating the possibility of never-ending states of emergencies under the direction of one individual. The Alabama legislature needs to be involved in this process.
Restore Public Health Accountability to the People
Alabama is the only state in the nation where the top health organization is not led by someone appointed by the governor or by a board that is appointed by the governor.
Alabama law designates “the State Board of Health as an advisory board to the state in all medical matters, matters of sanitation, and public health. The Medical Association, which meets annually, is the State Board of Health.” This “Medical Association” is none other than the Medical Association of the State of Alabama (MASA), the association of some of the state’s physicians. MASA operates just like any other professional association does: it has its own leadership, its own practices, and its own decision-making bodies – all of which are determined not by the governor or by the people of Alabama, but solely by the medical practitioners who populate the group’s membership rolls. The Medical Association is also a registered principle (an organization that hires lobbyists) and has, as of March 2021, six registered lobbyists. In fact, advocacy is, according to their website, the “Medical Association’s primary focus.” What about the State Health Officer? Maybe he’s chosen by the governor or elected? Not quite.The State Health Officer is elected by the State Committee on Public Health. Members of the State Committee on Public Health are selected by the State Board of Health, which is the Medical Association. This dynamic is similar with county health officers as well. The office of Chief Medical Officer in Alabama should be a cabinet level position that is appointed by the governor like his/her other cabinet officials. He or she should also be confirmed by the Senate.
Eliminate the Anti-Healthcare and Anti-Competitive Certificate of Need Process
The certificate of need (CON) process requires healthcare providers hoping to expand or develop new healthcare facilities in the state to get approval by state officials. This approval is not, however, to ensure the health and safety of employees or patients. Instead, healthcare providers are tasked with demonstrating a “need” for the expansion or new healthcare facility in the area the providers hope to serve. The certificate of need process was initially suggested by the federal government, which incentivized states to adopt CON laws. Almost every state created a CON system. Just a few years later, the federal government studied the results of CON laws, which it had hoped would lead to a decrease in healthcare costs, and realized the ineffectiveness of the programs. The federal government ended the incentivizing of CON laws and state after state repealed the system because of its inability to reduce
costs and its anti-competitive nature. Today, Alabama maintains its CON regime though twelve states have fully repealed their laws and neighboring states of Tennessee, Florida, and Georgia have recently restricted the CON process. Alabama should eliminate the CON process just as Texas did in 1985.
Eliminate Harmful Occupational Licensing Laws
Occupational licensing imposes mandatory professional requirements on individuals seeking entry into an occupation. The purpose of these professional requirements is to protect consumers in situations where they may lack the information necessary to evaluate the quality and safety of a good service. Initially, reasonable professional requirements extended only to occupations that could credibly demonstrate a need for licensure; but over time, licensure requirements have increasingly extended to cover more and more occupations.
These licensure requirements now include educational and experience requirements as well as a wide assortment of fees. Rather than to protect consumers, industry practitioners often lobby for licensure to legally restrict entry into their professions, reducing competition and raising industry wages through higher consumer prices. Thus, occupational licensure often hampers economic mobility and occupational choice by reducing employment opportunities, raising prices on consumers, and restricting consumer choice. The costs of occupational licensing often fall heaviest on the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups in society, including the poor, minorities, military service members, and rehabilitated criminals. Alabama licenses a total of 151 occupations, covering over 432,000 Alabama workers, which represents over 21 percent of the state’s labor force. We estimate the total initial costs of occupational licensure, excluding the educational costs, to be $122 million. Annual license renewal costs both workers and consumers (who often pay for these costs in increased prices) $45 million total. This pales in comparison to the total initial education costs, which we estimate to be $65 billion, and the estimated $243 million annual continuing education costs for licensed workers in Alabama.
Given the substantial economic costs imposed by occupational licensing in Alabama, the state legislature must eliminate these borders to entry and ensure new barriers do not arrive.
In 2019, the legislature considered a bill that would have required any new licensing regulations to go before a sunrise committee. This bill was not considered in committee. It should be considered the first step in fixing Alabama’s overburdensome system. The state should then pass legislation that creates a more substantial review process of current occupational licensing statutes than the sunset process currently in place which has rarely, if ever, resulted in less regulation.