Legislative session to focus on variety of pay raises

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 26, 2000

More and more it appears the 2000 regular session of the Legislature will be focused on pay raises.

The top item on Gov. Siegelman's agenda is a teacher pay raise, with his long range goal to boost their pay to the national average.

Also on the table is the controversial measure to create a compensation commission which would establish salaries for state officials and…most significantly…legislators.

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The beauty of this bill, at least to the lawmakers, is that if passed they could get raises without having to vote on them. They love raises, they hate having to vote for them.

Now comes yet another pay raiser-this one for state employees. Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, has sponsored legislation which among other things would give a $1,250 annual bonus to some 10,000 state workers who are already at the top of their classification and cannot be given a raise.

To his credit, Knight conceded there might not be enough in the General Fund to finance the raises; legislation has surely won him some points with his constituents, many of whom are state employees.

The record is clear and it is something we can be proud of-when our nation has been engaged in war, Alabamians have been the first to step forward to defend their country.

On a per capita basis more Alabamians have served, fought and died in U. S. wars than any state, most especially World War II.

Despite this record, for some unaccountable reason Alabama is dragging its feet in support of a national monument honoring World War II veterans. Strangely, while there are monuments in Washington honoring World War I, Korean and Vietnam vets, there is no monument honoring those who served in World War II.

A major effort is now underway to raise funds for the monument. Each state has been asked to appropriate $1 for each of its WWII vets. As of now, 44 of the 50 states have made their contributions. Alabama is one of the six states that has not. For the record, 321,000 Alabama men and women served in that conflict.

Congressman Bob Riley, R-Ashland, is urging the Alabama legislature to approve the appropriation this session.

"We must build this monument while members of that generation are still here to see it," Riley said.

Personal Note: He better hurry. There ain't many of us left.

More than once, especially during legislative sessions, I have considered including a regular feature in this column. I would call it the "Quote of the Week" or something like that.

It would include some well-turned phrases heard on Goat Hill, but more often it would be the absurd comments oftentimes made in the heat of debate.

If I had such a feature, this week's winner would be Sheriff David Warren of Macon County (Tuskegee) who testified before a legislative committee in support of video poker at the dog track at VictoryLand.

He said that without video poker the track could go bankrupt and 300 people would lose their jobs. Then came an absolutely mind-boggling warning from the chief law enforcement officer of the county:

"Those 300 people could become 300 suspects."

For him to suggest that if the dog track employees were laid off they would immediately go on a crime spree is a strange way for an elected official to win friends and votes.