Auburn University's Student Government Association sponsored "Capitol on the Plains" on Oct. 16, 2012. This legislative forum brought together four Republican legislators and one Democrat in a bipartisan panel to answer questions from students about Alabama politics.
Panelists included Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Hubbard, Sen. Phil Williams, Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin, Rep. Pebblin Warren and Sen. Tom Whatley. Auburn SGA President Owen Parrish asked the panelists a series of predetermined questions.
Parrish's questions covered a range of topics relevant to Alabama voters, namely the legislative priorities for the 2013 legislative session, which include repayment of funds from the recently-passed "Amendment 1," education funding and proration, bringing in business to Alabama and new sources of revenue for the state.
Following the predetermined questions, the floor was opened to audience members who wanted to ask questions to the panelists. Several students were able to ask questions on issues like legalizing and taxing gaming in Alabama, the amendments that will be on the November ballot and the legislature's plans to get Alabama out of debt in the coming year.
A majority of the discussion centered on how to bring new businesses to Alabama. Panelists discussed incentive plans that encourage new companies to call Alabama home and bring in new jobs for Alabamians.
Warren elaborated on her plan to find a way to get Alabama out of debt. "We're going to have to find ways to generate revenue. We can't keep borrowing from Peter to pay Paul," she says.
Panelists presented several options to solve that problem, including an increased accountability for taxes on Internet purchases, extending bond sales and taxing the gaming industry.
Education was another hot topic for the panelists. Legislators discussed the affects of proration from state budget cuts on all levels of education, specifically higher education in Alabama.
Panelists' advice for students? Representatives on both sides of the aisle agree that students should learn about the issues that are most important to them.
"Know your true feelings. Do your homework. Don't jump on the bandwagon. Work cooperatively to find solutions," Warren says.
"Exercise your right to vote, study the issues and understand what is going to impact you positively when you graduate from Auburn University," Hubbard says.
The 2012 election will be held November 6. Alabama's deadline to register to vote is October 26. Register to vote, check your registration status or find your polling location at www.alabamavotes.gov.