By WVUA 23 Web Coordinator David Williams III
The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama took a group of West Alabama delegates to Montgomery for a two-day meeting with state leaders. Local leaders from Tuscaloosa County were able to have some personal time with lawmakers and discussed many issues concerning the state.
On day one of the Montgomery drive-in, nearly 100 delegates from Tuscaloosa County entered the capitol city.
“Some of the topics we’ve been focusing on this trip is prison reform and mental health, which obviously is an area of major concern for us because the Tuscaloosa community is really the state capital of mental health facilities,” said Jim Page, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama. “We also talked about education, which of course affects everybody and certainly economic development, workforce development is always a major issue for us. ”
Alabama Rep. Bill Poole, Chair of the House Ways and Means Education Committee kicked off the luncheon with a discussion about the education budget that would provide a 2.5 percent pay raise for education employees. This would boost funding for kindergarten by $20 million, and fund 197 more teachers in middle schools. He said the budget proposal was widely praised.
“It’s important for folks in our community to be seen and recognized and be part of the process here in Montgomery that benefits our community and our region, so its very important,” Poole said. “I’m glad that folks have made their time to come down here.”
After the luncheon, the delegates moved to the state capitol to hear from Alabama Sen. Greg Reed and State Commissioner of Mental Health Lynn Beshear. Beshear said the department’s partnerships are vital to the state.
“We have created some really strong partnerships I believe with Medicaid, the Department of Corrections, the Department of Labor,” Beshear said. “We have an amazing Developmental Disabilities Job Fair back at the end of October.”
The second day began with Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, who talked about voter registration, photo ID and improvements to the voting process. Merrill said Alabama is leading the nation with 906,124 new registered voters.
“We now have 3,344,143 registered voters in Alabama,” Merrill said. “Both of those are unprecedented and parallel in the history of the state.”