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House Committee Approves Teacher Raises, Selma Prepares for Bridge Crossing Jubilee

bridge crossing 1965
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., civil rights marchers cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Feb. 1965.

A House committee has approved an education budget that would give most of the state’s teachers a 4% pay raise.

Yesterday, the House Ways and Means Committee unanimously approved a $6.3 billion spending plan for 2017.

The 4% raise would go to teachers making less than $75,000 annually. Others would get a 2% raise.

The budget would also provide funding to hire an additional 475 teachers in 7th through 12th grades.

Budget Chairman Bill Poole of Tuscaloosa says the budget makes the best use of the state's finite resources.

Susan Kennedy of the Alabama Education Association told committee members that teachers were grateful for the raise but asked if more was possible. She says inflation and rising costs had chipped away at educators' salaries.

This weekend is the annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma.

The event marks the 51st anniversary of “bloody Sunday”. Organizers are expecting a good turnout, but crowds are anticipated to be smaller than at the 50th anniversary observance last year.

The event lasts all weekend and includes cultural events and political discussions. The jubilee culminates with lawmakers and foot soldiers marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Catrina Norris Carter is the National Coordinator for Selma’s Bridge Crossing Jubilee. She says this event has renewed importance because of current political issues.

“I think it’s more important now even than it has been in recent years because of the attacks on voting rights. For example, they were trying to close down all of the DMVs in 12 different counties, and most of those were the poorer counties.”

A 2011 law requires Alabama voters to have specific kinds of photo identification to vote in elections, including in the Super Tuesday Primary earlier this week.

The U.S. Department of Labor is proposing a new rule that could impact small businesses in Alabama.

It has to do with retirement plans and concerns by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. That group is worried about limiting investors’ ability to seek financial planning services.

Alice Joe is a spokeswoman for the Chamber. She says the Labor Department is adding unnecessary burdens on small business owners.

“The regulation they’ve put it is so complex that it is just completely impractical or workable for any advisor or small business owner to make work very easily. With all these extra costs and the increase in liability, all of this is going to get passed down to the small business owner or to the actual individuals who are investing in the plan.”

Joe says there are roughly 135,000 small businesses in Alabama, and this rule would keep them from being able to offer retirement plans similar to those from larger companies. 

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