The last few years in the Alabama legislature, well, they haven’t been great. 

As soon as the new members were voted into office in 2018, the legislature decided the price of gas wasn’t high enough and raised the fuel tax. The people would forget by the next election, right?

The same legislature would later go on to expand government bureaucracy while rejecting even the most meager of school choice bills. They would consistently let the gambling issue waste taxpayer time – over and over and over again. As for meaningful tax cuts? I wish I could tell you that this happened. The legislature, however, instead decided to expand the state budgets by hundreds of millions of dollars every year. 

To be fair, there have been some bright spots. After they increased the gas tax, the legislature later approved the most strict abortion law in the country, setting us up well for a post-Roe America. 

Going into this session, things looked promising. The legislature had at least two truly conservative bills, bolstered by momentum from other states passing similar legislation, in the hopper. What’s more, is that it was an election year. Perhaps the legislature would take this opportunity to prove their conservative bona fides to the people.

The first bill, sponsored by Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and Rep. Charlotte Meadows (R-Montgomery) would be a game-changer for Alabama’s children if passed. We’ve written about this bill before (you can read more about it here), but suffice it to say that Alabama parents and families would have had more freedom in directing their children’s education and Alabama’s students would be better off overall.

As a school choice bill, the Parent’s Choice Act naturally threatens the existing public school bureaucracy as it offers parents an option other than the public system. At the bill’s initial hearing in the Senate, administrator after administrator testified that the bill would’ve been bad for their employers. What was best for individual students, however, didn’t seem to matter.

After being approved in committee, the bill continued to be opposed by the existing education bureaucracy, especially the Alabama Education Association, which donates to the campaigns of many Republican legislators. As a result, the bill was then sent to a study committee. 

What has come out of the study committee is a dramatically different bill with an impact that is, in comparison to the original, incredibly limited. Instead of offering school choice to every student in Alabama, regardless of zip code or social status, the legislature is considering a minor technical change to the state’s already-existing small school choice program. 

The Parent’s Choice Act was essentially killed in that committee. The bureaucracy won, with little to no fight from the “conservative” legislature at large.

One of the most conservative and impactful bills of the session, dead.

The second great bill that the legislature has on the docket this year is an elimination of the state sales tax on groceries. Honestly, it’s past time we do this, as Alabama is one of only three states that taxes groceries fully without providing any offset for low- and moderate-income families. In fact, the vast majority of states have repealed or never had grocery taxes in the first place. That said, it’s better to be late to the game than to not show up at all.

HB174, however, hasn’t even been considered in committee yet. Rep. Mike Holmes (R-Wetumpka) is sponsoring the bill. 1819 News reported that Holmes believes it is “stuck” in the Ways and Means Committee with no resolution in sight. 

Another great bill. Dying. 

Other states don’t seem to have the hesitancy problem Alabama has in pursuing meaningful change. Right now, Mississippi is debating joining our neighbors in Florida and Tennessee in not having an income tax. In West Virginia, students are in their first year of a monumental school choice program, the program after which the Parent’s Choice Act was modeled. 

Inertia seems to be keeping us back. Our leaders talk about adapting to the future a lot here in Alabama, but when you look at what our government does, it appears as if our legislature doesn’t want to compete.

But if not now, when? There has never been a better time for the legislature to approve both the Parent’s Choice Act and the elimination of the grocery tax. What’s worse is that there may never be another opportunity like this.

Why? Because right now, Alabama has over a $1.5 billion dollars in budget surplus. To be clear, these are not one-time federal stimulus funds. This is revenue from the state’s current tax code.

There’s an episode of The Office where the manager, Michael Scott, has to figure out what to do with a budget surplus. Half the office wants him to buy new chairs. The other half wants a new copier. In classic Michael fashion, he stresses over the decision for an entire day. That is until he realizes he can return the money to corporate and enjoy a percentage of it as a personal bonus.

The legislature has a similar decision to make. They could eliminate the grocery tax, pass the Parent’s Choice Act, or both (the surplus could, in fact, cover both), doing something positive for the state that they lead. Or they could keep it for the state government, enjoying a percentage for their own pet project at home.

All proponents are asking with these bills is that we grow the government a little less. Just for this year. Next year, they can go right back to increasing their budgets by hundreds of millions of dollars if they want.   

Is one year of fiscal conservatism too much to ask?

The Alabama Policy Institute is a non-profit, non-partisan educational and research organization committed to free markets, limited government, and strong families. API reaches its goal of sound public policy through research, advocacy, and public education efforts. To learn more about API, see The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to