quot;State of the Statequot; kept both sides of aisle applauding

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 12, 2000

You had to look hard to find much criticism of Gov. Don Siegelman's "State of the State Address" to the opening session of the 2000 Legislature…not only in delivery, but more importantly, in content.

If anyone thought Siegelman might still be groggy, a little punch-drunk, from his crushing lottery defeat, they were disappointed. He came on like gangbusters and in the process outlined an ambitious program which had both sides of the aisle…Democrats and Republicans…applauding.

While a few political idealists clucked their tongues in dismay because he avoided such major issues as constitutional and tax reform, his emphasis on education, fiscal restraint and crime left them little room to protest too strongly.

The centerpiece of the Siegelman legislative program is a substantial pay raise for teachers. He had campaigned on a promise to bring teachers' salaries to the national average and this would be a major step in that direction.

And thanks to a solid economy, Siegelman found enough money in the school fund to also give higher ed a 5.5 per cent increase as well. For the first time in a long time both public and post-secondary school folks were smiling.

And on a related matter, Siegelman insisted he was serious about a bill to require school children to address teachers with the titles of respect of "sir" and "ma'am."

This proposition had provoked a lot of editorial chuckles from his strongest supporters, but Siegelman said he was determined to follow through with this legislation no matter the skepticism.

As Gov. Siegelman is drawing rave reviews for his "State of the State Address" as well as his legislative program, it seems almost unfair to bring up unpleasant memories…but…

Final records were released a few days ago on the cost of the statewide lottery campaign last year and it shows what most already knew-Gov. Siegelman and the prolottery forces spent a bundle for nothing.

Records show the Alabama Citizens for Education…the pro-lottery group created by Siegelman…raised and spent a whopping $5 million in the losing effort, about three times what the opponents spent.

If nothing else, the campaign was a bonanza for Alabama TV stations, since the bulk of the money went for commercials.

Circuit Judge Roy Moore of Gadsden, the so-called "Ten Commandments Judge", has been cleared by the Judicial Inquiry Commission of any misconduct but he was at the same time admonished for overstepping the line with some of his remarks.

While he expressed pleasure that no charges were filed against him by the JIC, the outspoken Moore was sharply critical that he had been admonished.

He said it waspolitically-motivated. Moore is an announced candidate for Chief Justice in the 2000

election.

The Alabama Baptists showed they had a lot of political moxie last year in the lottery fight but they made what surely was an unintended blunder at their annual legislative prayer luncheon last week.

No state official put his neck more on the line in opposing the lottery than did Lt. Gov. Steve Windom. While it would not have been appropriate to make any mention of that at the luncheon, Windom had reason to expect he would be seated in the same Zip Code with other constitutional officers. He wasn't.

In fact he was so far back in the corner that when Gov. Siegelman went through the nicety of introducing the constitutional officers he didn't even see the lieutenant governor. It was not a deliberate oversight on Siegelman's part. He's not that dumb. It was the Baptists who were dumb.