MAGNOLIA SPRINGS — State Rep. Jennifer Fidler (R-Silverhill) held a town hall meeting Tuesday evening in Magnolia Springs to give constituents a legislative update.

Fidler said her top goals for the legislature this year included addressing election security, mental health, changes to the State Health Officer position, prison sentencing issues, prison construction, capping property tax increases and transparency in education.

Gaming and lottery, human trafficking, ethics law reform, broadband internet availability, library content, and school choice are also issues expected during the regular session. Fidler said school choice, in particular, would likely bring tense debate.

"The teachers, principals, and superintendents want the accountability for both the parents and the students, making sure the state standards are met for the curriculum guidelines," Fidler said. "Our state has no child left behind and it takes more money for some students. Some want all the tax money to follow the child, but it's unreasonable."

She continued, "From the study I have looked into, you can't take all of the money and follow the child. It takes more money and resources for students with physical or mental disadvantages. So, most students that don't have any issues with physical or mental, we don't spend quite as much money."

Local Legislation

Fidler also discussed several local legislative issues related to Baldwin County, including a Board of Education bill to raise the pay for BOE members, a bill to give the sheriff's position a raise to $130,000 annually beginning next term and a Historic Landmark District legislation to protect Bon Secour.

Other local bills could require anyone running for probate judge to have a law degree, add space to the courthouse and add an elected Baldwin County Commission Chairman, bringing the total number of commissioners to five. Due to the controversy over a fifth commissioner, Fidler said she wanted to hear from voters about how they feel. A constituent attending the meeting said he wanted to see a fifth commissioner based on the county's population but does not want the fifth commissioner to be called a chairman or have influence over the other four commissioners.

Fidler said to offset lost revenue from the state getting rid of concealed carry permits, the sheriff is requesting a $5 increase in processing fees.

The border crisis will also be discussed as a resolution. Fidler said for her, it was disturbing to find out the high percentages of non-English speaking students in local schools, and she drafted a resolution acknowledging the border crisis.

"I've been really impressed with our schools but was astounded when I found out there were that many students non-English speaking," Fidler added. "… When you see it in your backyard, you realize they're not just Hispanic. They're from Guatemala. They're from other countries."

Going into her second year as a legislator, Fidler said she has been surprised at how well Democrats and Republicans get along in Montgomery.

"We don't get along on everything; don't get me wrong," Fidler said. "But there is a lot of compromise that takes place to make sure we get things done for our area. Mobile and Baldwin Counties are perfect examples of that. We take care of our port, which creates jobs, which impacts us over here."

Fidler is holding two more meetings on Wednesday. They will be at the Baldwin County Satellite Courthouse in Fairhope at 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

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