Anyone who follows the Legislative Session each year in Montgomery, knows that it is never short of controversy.
The House has its priorities, the Senate has its own, and governors have theirs. And it is fair to say that those priorities are not always the same. You can take gaming this session as an example.
However, in this session there is one major push that has brought all our state’s top elected leaders together — an ambitious workforce, economic and community development package called, “Working for Alabama.”
At an announcement event in Montgomery last month, we saw a rare occurrence: Gov. Kay Ivey joining with Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth and the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate to unveil the seven bills that make up the Working for Alabama legislative package.
So, what will Working for Alabama do? Let’s start with the workforce development piece. Currently, Alabama has one of the worst labor force participation rates in the nation. Anyone with decent eyesight knows this by seeing the countless “now hiring” signs on the front windows of businesses across our state.
The jobs are there, we just do not have the people trained and equipped to take those jobs. This is an Achilles heel for our state’s economic growth. A company cannot and will not set up shop in a place that does not have the workers needed to operate.
This is a real problem, but our legislative leaders have accepted this challenge. Through the Commission on 21st Century Workforce and years of effort, research and study, this commission came out with a report that outlined some commonsense ways that will help create a workforce in Alabama that is second to none.
The Alabama Workforce Transformation Act would consolidate duplicative state agencies that are currently operating in silos when it comes to workforce, thereby improving efficiency and reducing government waste. The Secretary of Labor would become the Secretary of Workforce and serve as a sort of “quarterback” to make sure these entities are doing their jobs and achieving results.
You can think of this like a building project. If you have a bunch of independent contractors without a general contractor overseeing them to make sure they are all working efficiently together, that is going to be a pretty sloppy job with mixed results. The same is true for workforce development.
Working for Alabama also recognizes that a significant number of high school students do not plan to go to a four-year college. Honestly, many of them do not need to. There are high paying, high demand jobs available that do not require a four-year college degree. This is where Alabama’s outstanding Community College System will have a major impact on the success of this plan. This package would allow high school students to take full advantage of this valuable state resource to obtain credentials and training while in school, so they are able to get a good job as soon as they graduate. This will allow more of our young people to start strong careers through which they can provide for their families and contribute to their communities.
This package aims to eliminate barriers to employment through a childcare tax credit, so parents do not have to stay at home due to unaffordable childcare services. This has been a priority for House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter and will help countless families.
Working for Alabama will also make impressive improvements to our state’s current economic development efforts. It will require our state to create an economic development plan that will be regularly updated and receive input from an industry board. A good thing about this piece of the plan is that it will measure success, so our state’s economic development leaders can see if what they are doing is actually working, and if it is not, they will change what they are doing. Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed is leading the charge on this effort. He has been a leader in economic development throughout his tenure in the legislature.
This bipartisan plan will also invest in communities through key resources, such as funding for highspeed internet expansion, industrial site development for industry recruitment, and other key areas. Between the leadership of Ivey, Ainsworth, Speaker Ledbetter, Reed, Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels and others all working together to get this done, the result will truly supercharge Alabama’s economy and workforce for years to come.
It is good to see all of our state’s top elected leaders coming together and Working for Alabama.
See you next week.

Steve Flowers’ weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature.