Saturday, House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) addressed the Mid-Alabama Republican Club (MARC) in Vestavia Hills. Ledbetter said that the state of Alabama has surpluses in both budgets and is hiring more workers while other states are having to cut positions. Ledbetter credited ‘conservative budgeting" for this.

“Alabama is in a better shape financially than probably at any time in the history of the state,” Ledbetter said. “We have the largest budgets in history, this with $200 million in tax cuts. This does not just happen.

"As a business owner, I hate privilege tax and business personal property taxes. We have cut taxes for 200,000 businesses.”

Ledbetter thanked State Sen. Dan Roberts (R-Mountain Brook) for his role in that.

“Last year we put over $400 million back in the general fund and over $1 billion in education,” Ledbetter said. “This is due to our conservative budgeting approach.

“As of January 1, you won’t be taxed in order to carry a pistol,” Ledbetter said. “In my lifetime, I have never seen our economy like this. We are number two in automobile manufacturing, number one in airliners, and number five in shipbuilding.

“We passed a bill last year to cut red tape to get government out of the way of business. When the transportation industry came to us and asked us to lower the age to 18 to get a commercial driver's license (CDL). We passed that because they were having difficulty finding drivers.”

The MARC held a moment of silence for State Rep. David Wheeler (R-Vestavia), who died on Wednesday, and for the wife of Sen. Dan Roberts (Ann), who died from COVID-19 on March 4. Wheeler’s funeral was Saturday, and many MARC attendees then attended the funeral. Wheeler had been very active in the group.

“Today is a really sad moment. We are going to miss David,” Ledbetter said. “He believed in his country and his state and he was a great friend.

“I was the first freshman to be elected as Majority Leader. I ran because we lost our Speaker (Mike Hubbard) and the Majority Leader (Micky Hammon) over some issues that never should have happened.”

State Rep. Jim Carns (R-Vestavia) introduced Ledbetter.

“The House is in chaos and I can barely hear anything over the noise and then Mr. Ledbetter goes to the microphone and says ‘We have a motion in writing.’ Carns said. “That is music to the ears.

“He is on the road traveling all over the state holding interviews,” Carns said. “We have 17 or 18 we need to replace with hopefully like-minded Republicans.”

Ledbetter said, “Jim Carns deserves a round of applause. He is the dean of the House.”

Ledbetter acknowledge former State Rep. and current Judge for the Court of Civil Appeals Matt Fridy, Ledbetter said, “Matt Fridy, we started in the House together. Whatever Matt Fridy runs for I will be supporting him.”

Ledbetter talked about weekly meetings with the governor and leadership.

“The leadership meets with the governor weekly when we are in session,” Ledbetter said. “One thing I can say about Gov. Ivey is that she listens to everyone” and what they have to say."

Ledbetter said that at one of these meetings he told her that we need to do more for mental health.

“We have added mental health coordinators over the past three years,” Ledbetter said. “After this year’s budget, every school system will have a mental health coordinator.

“We have been challenged by a higher power than Gov. Ivey to fix mental health in the state. Since I started working with this, I have had three people that I know commit suicide.

“We have a mental health problem in our state that we have to continue to work on."

Ledbetter also addressed education.

“I dropped a bill to put auxiliary teachers in K-3 in failing schools,” Ledbetter said. “I need to say that, it doesn’t pay that much, $20,000. We opened it up to college students because we have got to get more teachers.”

Ledbetter said that this approach was recommended by his school's superintendent.

A person in the audience asked if the state legislature was considering repealing the ten-cent gas tax increase passed in 2019 due to the higher fuel prices (now over $4 a gallon across the state.)

“There hasn’t been any talk about this,” Ledbetter said. “The state tax ... is about 28 cents.

“Our highway system has gotten in really bad shape. We have opened up Mobile Bay (dredging the shipping channel to accommodate larger ships). It is going to be a tremendous benefit for the whole state. They are talking about adding another port in Montgomery.”

Ledbetter blamed President Joseph R. Biden’s “stupid policy decisions” for the high gas prices.

“What we need to be doing is working to elect a Republican as President and take over the (U.S.) House and Senate," Ledbetter said.

One woman in the audience asked Ledbetter to oppose the parental choice bill, SB140, the is being carried by Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and State Rep. Charlotte Meadows (R-Montgomery).

“I have had numerous conversations with Rep. Meadows and Sen Marsh, and we don’t have complete agreement,” Ledbetter said. “If we did what they want, 10 years from now we are not going to see any difference. People do need choices. Maybe public school is not best for everyone. I am not for defunding public schools. I am not for taking $400 million from public schools. I can tell you that you are not going to have votes on [school choice] this year. We will probably do something next year.”

Ledbetter said he believes there does need to be some school choice.

1819 News asked, "I have had a number of parents contact me and express concerns about adding mental health coordinators to the public schools. They say that since the Supreme Court took God and religious instruction out of the schools in the 1960s that the secular counseling represents a non-Christian world view and they would prefer that the state not have those services in the school system."

“That is not correct,” Ledbetter said. “That is not my bill. That was another bill.”

Ledbetter said that the Smitherman bill had sections on data collection that are not in his bill which adds 149 mental health coordinators to Alabama's public schools.

“We have already had mental health coordinators for the past three years,” Ledbetter said.

MARC President and Hoover City Councilman John Lyda said that the next MARC meeting will be at the Hoover City Council meeting room on April 9 because the room in the Vestavia Library where MARC normally meets was reserved that day for another group.

Jefferson County Republican Party Chairman Paul DeMarco said that the Jeffco GOP’s annual dinner fundraiser will be on Friday, March 18 at The Club. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama) is the featured guest speaker. Tickets are $150 per plate. Sponsorship opportunities are still available.

The MARC meets on the second Saturday of each month.

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