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Workforce development bills moving in Legislature

On Thursday, the Alabama House of Representatives passed the bipartisan "Working for Alabama" package – an ambitious set of reforms that legislators hope will strengthen the state of Alabama's workforce development efforts, improving Alabama's low labor force participation rate and growing the state's economy.

Alabama has historically low unemployment at just 3.0% unemployment. Unfortunately, the state still has widespread poverty because over 42% of adult Alabamians do not have a job (fulltime or part time). The state has one of the worst workforce participation rates in the entire country and even rising wages has not been able to improve that noticeably despite a booming economy.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey and the Alabama Legislature have committed themselves to turning this situation around. To this end they have drafted bills to offer tax incentives to employers to build childcare centers so moms can return to work faster, to create a new workforce position on the governor's cabinet that will have oversight over the various workforce training and apprenticeship programs the state offers, tax incentives for building workforce housing, and new flexibility for towns and counties to offer incentives to businesses.

Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) is the Speaker of the House.

"I'm proud of our members for coming together and getting these important bills passed in such a strong fashion," said Speaker Ledbetter. "The Working for Alabama Package builds on our historic economic success by addressing many of the key challenges standing between our state and its full potential. I have no doubt that our efforts to support Alabama's working families and streamline Alabama's workforce development initiatives will take our state to new heights."

The bills passed today include:

The Alabama Workforce Housing Tax Credit

The Childcare Tax Credit

The Alabama Growth Alliance Act

The Alabama Workforce Transformation Act

The Alabama Career Pathways Act

The Alabama Workforce Transformation Act is sponsored by Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville). This bill merges duplicative workforce development agencies and programs under a central agency to increase efficiency and create accountability for outcomes.

"The Game Plan we passed last year, and its accompanying incentive programs went a long way in making our state a more viable location for industries and businesses to set up shop and make our state home," said Rep. Garrett. "That's how you create a strong economy – by taking advantage of our great quality of life and our second-to-none business environment to attract investments into our economy that will lift up Alabama communities."

"Convincing companies to move here instead of neighboring states like Georgia and Tennessee is a very hard task without an engaged and trained workforce," said Garrett. "Alabama has one of the worst labor force participation rates in the nation, but by reducing government inefficiency, streamlining and making more effective our state's workforce development programs and removing key barriers to entry – we're going to change that and get more Alabamians into the workforce and contributing to our economy."

The Alabama Growth Alliance Act is sponsored by Rep. Randall Shedd (R-Fairview).

"We've made tremendous progress on some very significant issues in our state over the past few years," said Rep. Shedd. "Look at broadband – we were ranked 47th just a few years ago, and now we're ranked in the twenties. That kind of progress in a short time is a result of planning, effort and collaboration between the public and private sectors to create an environment where we can affect the most change. By creating a structure for our state's workforce development efforts that tracks outcomes to ensure accountability, and a plan that has private-sector input and is regularly updated to keep up with a changing global environment, we can have a more deliberate, intentional and effective approach to growing our economy."

The Career Pathway Act is sponsored by Rep. Kelvin Lawrence (D-Hayneville). This legislation would give students the ability to receive credentials while in high school to immediately take on high-demand, high-quality jobs as soon as they graduate high school.

"It's a reality that not all Alabama high school students plan on attending college," said Lawrence. "The good news is the state of Alabama has a large number of high-quality jobs available that are well-paying and can give our youth the ability to pursue a great career for themselves and their families without a four-year degree. The Career Pathways Act will give those students the ability to graduate high school with a credential and immediately enter the workforce with a job that allows them to create a great future for themselves. This was a key recommendation that came out of the Lieutenant Governor's Commission on 21st Century Workforce, on which I served, and I can't wait to see the impact this bill will have on countless young Alabamians."

Alabama Republican Party Chairman John Wahl commended legislators for the work that they have done to attempts to improve workforce development and the workforce participation rate.

"One of the hallmarks of the Republican Party is supporting sound economic policies that help our communities and citizens succeed," said Chairman Wahl. "It's no secret that over the last few years, workforce development has become one of the biggest issues facing states across the country. There is a labor shortage, posing a serious challenge for our state's economy. We simply don't have enough people working. We've seen how blue states try to tackle this problem – California just implemented a $20 minimum wage that is crippling employers, leading to layoffs, and causing the prices of everyday goods to skyrocket. If that isn't enough, as always, they're trying to address this issue with more regulations, more government interference, and more bureaucracy that only make the problem worse."

"The answer isn't bigger government; it is putting policies in place that prioritize people" Wahl continued. "We need to respect the free market and provide young people with a pathway to a successful career, whether they go to college or not. We need a common-sense, conservative approach to deal with this issue; one that will reduce government waste and inefficiency, create oversight for government officials who have for too long been held unaccountable with our tax dollars, support families through childcare accessibility, create innovation districts that will transform communities both rural and metropolitan, and give the people of Alabama a say in what happens in their government."

"Republican leaders in Alabama have been working on a plan called 'Working for Alabama' that addresses many of these important issues," Wahl added. "I commend them for seeking a conservative solution to a very real challenge our state is facing, and I appreciate all involved in creating common-sense policy that I hope can serve as an example to other states across the nation."

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