By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News
Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed and several lawmakers on Wednesday gathered for a State House news conference to promot a slate of bills aimed at making Alabama “the most military friendly state in the country.”
A package of bills aimed at retaining and improving the federal military presence across Alabama are moving through the Legislature.
Ainsworth chairs the Alabama Military Stability Commission, whose mission is advocating policies that encourage the continued presence of military bases and programs in the state.
“The federal military bases located in Alabama play an important role in our state’s economy and job climate, so retaining and, when possible, expanding their footprint must always be a top priority,” Ainsworth said in a written statement. “And mayors in the cities and counties that house them will attest to how vital our military bases are in providing employment opportunities and revenues in local economies across the state.”
The bills already approved in the Senate include:
- Senate Bill 83, by Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, to allow military dependents attending public colleges and universities in Alabama to pay in-state tuition even if their parents are transferred out of state;
- Senate Bill 103, by Sen. Will Barfoot, R-Pike Road, to provide for the formation of charter schools on or near military installations with a focus on serving military dependents.
- Sen. Tom Butler, R – Madison, chair of the Senate Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, said addressing issues important to military families is especially important since Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal was recently announced as the headquarters for the U.S. Space Command.
“Redstone Arsenal has been the backbone of the Tennessee Valley’s economy since its founding 80 years ago, in 1941, and that role is continuing to grow even more with the recent decision to locate U.S. Space Command at Redstone,” Butler said. “There’s no better way to roll out the red carpet for Space Command than by passing this legislative package and offering even more advantages and opportunities for the military personnel who will soon call Alabama home.”
House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, said competition among states for military infrastructure is at an all-time high.
“Even the smallest advantage we put in place can tip the balance of whether a base stays here, leaves here, or expands here, and the legislative package put forth by the Military Stability Commission signals that Alabama is serious about keeping and building upon our military bases,” McCutcheon said.