Much of the 2023 state legislative session was a learning experience for freshman State Sen. Josh Carnley (R-Ino).
In a recent interview with 1819 News, Carnley discussed his experiences as a first-time lawmaker dealing with lobbyists, various state agencies and big issues like tax reform.
He questioned whether the state would be better served by repealing certain laws and regulations versus introducing more and more bills like during the last session.
"[I] t's amazing that all these bills just come out, but are there bills that we need to be trying to repeal versus always creating laws? Because it seems that we are very aggressive in wanting somebody's name on a piece of legislation so they can tell folks back home that they're working," Carnley told 1819 News.
Read Part 2 of the interview below. Read Part 1 here.
What was your experience with lobbying in Montgomery?
"It's funny because you know that you're the new person when a lobbying firm comes to you and says, 'Hey, we got this great deal that we need you to help us with. We feel like it'd be good for you.' Early on, you may think it's sort of flattering when they bring it to you, but then you realize maybe you're just the only one that's willing to look at it because somebody else has already turned it down."
Are there any issues you want to learn more about before the next legislative term?
"You know, one of the things that I really want to do is spend time learning a little more about our agencies that we fund and what they do. I really want to learn more about education. You know, we had some big things that came through with the extension of the Accountability Act, but you have a lot of school choice discussion out there as well. I try to tell people back home that it's one of those things that's a big topic, and you really need some time to look at all the different variables and obstacles. We're talking about parents, but we're also talking about educators, so we really need to look at each side of it and come up with something that's good for everybody or the best you can.
You sit in those committee meetings, and you see a bill, and you vote what you believe. You definitely want to vote for what you believe is right for your constituents and the state of Alabama. So, my goal is to spend more time leading up to the next session trying to learn some of those things that I was unfamiliar with. Do I need to do more? Do we just need to let them be?
I laugh, and I joke with folks when I got back home. I said it's amazing that all these bills just come out, but are there bills that we need to be trying to repeal versus always creating laws? Because it seems that we are very aggressive in wanting somebody's name on a piece of legislation so they can tell folks back home that they're working. But I think sometimes we get so aggressive in trying to figure out how to solve a problem that's not even a problem that we just keep creating more problems. But learning some of those things that maybe we need to look back on."
What are your thoughts on tax reform?
"All we've done here in our state is cut taxes, cut taxes. And as we worked on the grocery tax, obviously, we're trying to be fiscally conservative and give back to people that are just hardworking people and earn everything. And you don't want to take any more than you have to. But you understand that you do have to operate the state. And I think people have some high expectations about what they want, and that costs money.
But it's interesting because you get so many deals that come at you for tax cuts. And obviously, you always want to support any of that, but you also have to make sure you're not just killing your budget just so you can tell people back home you cut taxes. But I think tax reform is something we really need to work on. It's such a complex thing.
It's so hard to look at our budgets and understand them because you've got the middle column, the money that comes into these agencies that doesn't come through the general funds, and you say, 'Oh, we don't spend a whole lot on this,' but then you look over here, and you see what they get through fees and services that they provide. It's always popular for people, especially in politics, to cut taxes, cut taxes, but we as a state are already next to the last as far as our tax burden.
I think we've got to be careful and make sure that we cut what makes sense and things that are unnecessary. Yes, let's cut those. But, you know, sometimes people are proposing tax cut bills just to get in the newspaper to get a name for themselves. I think we just need to be careful and come together and make sure we're all working towards a common goal as far as getting the most out of our tax dollars that we are giving and being very responsible with them."
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