And so it begins…

The Alabama 2008 legislative session opened with budget conflicts, ethics reform and the age-old mix of hope and disgust. Let the games begin…

We have been hearing for the past several months as to the dire condition of both of our state budgets—education and general. The Governor presented his proposed 2008 budget to the legislature on Wednesday and I am reviewing it to make sure that needed services are not in danger of being cut. Having chaired the House Task Force on Poverty this fall, I am continuing to fight for those who have been left behind in our so-called “economic growth” year and am determined to maximize opportunities and resources for those who have so little in our state and in my District.

The House passed twelve bills on Thursday – eleven of which I endorsed– including:

  • The PAC to PAC transfer ban,
  • A ban on pass-thru “pork”,
  • An expansion of the definition of a lobbyist to include those who lobby the Executive Branch,
  • Mandatory ethics training for elected officials,
  • A disclosure requirement for any ad trying to influence an election,
  • The establishment of a Transportation Commission to review transportation projects and funding, and
  • A bill to allow the Department of Transportation to enter into a private-public partnership to set up toll roads.

As we begin the 2008 session I feel it is unfortunate that Governor Riley has stated that he and the Republican Party are raising funds to unseat Democrats in the 2010 elections. My concern here is that this kind of overt political strategy doesn’t exactly encourage the Democratic majority to work with him. Rather than diminish one party in order to elevate another, we must work together and build support for the kind of legislative priorities that raise everyone together. Alabama politics never cease to amaze me.

If you read the paper or hear the news you may have already guessed that the fallout of the two year college investigations is already having its effect. Rep. Sue Schmitz’s (D-Toney) arrest caught many folks off guard; unfortunately, I’m sure that this is not the end of the indictments.

Like most of you, I don’t know all the facts in these cases, but I do know many of the people who are under investigation and recognize that there are good legislators in the bunch who genuinely care about and serve their districts. While I believe that justice must be served, I have to admit that sometimes I wonder about the extent to which politics has intruded into this entire scandal.

This coming week, the House will continue to pass bills and move legislation forward–and it is our hope that the Senate can keep peace and pass good policy. As always, I will keep pushing for transparency in government and good public policy. To this end, my priorities for this session include:

  • Increasing funding for Head Start programs
  • Increasing funding for Medicaid
  • Increasing the cap on business privilege tax from $15,000 to $30,000 so as to provide additional revenue for public education and allow for a tax deduction for small businesses who offer health insurance to their employees
  • Increasing tax on cigarettes from .46 to .75 a pack to provide additional revenue for public health programs such as ALL KIDS, providing health insurance to those children without private insurance who fall above the Medicaid eligible level
  • Increasing sales tax on automobiles over $40,000 to provide additional revenue to public education
  • Passing a bill to allow for a Constitutional Convention
  • Pushing for Ethics Reform including a ban on PAC to PAC transfers (This is the bill that already passed the House last Thursday and I am proud to have been a co-sponsor), mandatory disclosure of who is paying for campaign ads, registration of all persons trying to influence government and full disclosure of lobbying expenses
  • Allowing Alabama women to choose a certified midwife in the State of Alabama
  • Establishing a permanent legislative commission on the Reduction of Poverty
  • Mandating that workforce development programs recruit low and moderate income workers into their trainings
  • Mandating that companies receiving economic incentives report how many jobs they created and the pay scales and benefits of their workforce and also requiring those companies to pay a living wage to ALL employees
  • Decreasing the time a municipality must wait to tear down or sell an abandoned structure.

This session—as has been true of all the ones preceding it—bears the signs of hopefulness and struggle as we slog through the mud of public policy and politics; I begin this session renewed and invigorated at the possibilities before us as elected leaders, ever committed to building strong healthy families and strong healthy communities.

My door is always open to you.

2 Responses to “And so it begins…”

  1. Bhmhomeboy says:

    I know Representative Sue Schmitz to be an honorable woman, a committed and dedicated Educator, and an effective and honest Legislator. I fear war has been declared on Democratic Legislators and other elected officials. That the Governor, who took an oath to be Governor for ALL the people regardless of party, is the one leading the charge is troubling.

    I sincerely hope you can fulfill your committment to building strong healthy families and communities, however in the present political climate I fear politics will trump policies. We can’t have healthy families when many of the citizens don’t have access to quality health care. We can’t have strong communities with cuts to the education budget.

    The citizens of Alabama are counting on you, and others of good will, to work together for the good of ALL, regardless of race, religion, class, gender or political party.

  2. Tricia says:

    Thanks for the update!

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