Lege faced with many challenges

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 14, 2001

The Alabama Legislature opened its regular session for 2001 this past Tuesday and already a flurry of activity has taken place.

Governor Don Siegelman gave the State of the State address on Tuesday evening and the House and Senate members introduced over 400 bills in the two chambers.

The Governor's Finance Director and the head of the Legislative Fiscal Office gave separate briefings to the members of the legislature regarding the financial condition of the State.

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The Governor announced proration in the amount of 6.2 percent in the education budget and a lawsuit was filed against him by the School Board Association citing constitutional provisions which preclude prorating education funds.

The legislative committee on reapportionment met and set dates for statewide public hearings to gain input on realigning House and Senate districts.

This could be a very sensitive issue.

So it has been a very active week on all fronts with respect to state government.

The legislature will be in session until May 21 and during these several weeks must address a number of major issues.

The number one challenge for legislators appears to be resolving education concerns without increasing taxes.

I do not see this legislature as a group of men and women who are interested in adding additional taxes to Alabama families.

I know I will not be supporting new taxes, but I am interested in bringing about more accountability of the present funds which we use for education.

It is my judgement that we can tighten our belt and meet the needs that are critical to a successful educational program in our state.

Several bills were introduced on the subject of voter identification at the polls.

I do not think this is as big of a problem in Alabama as some would want you to believe, but I certainly see nothing wrong with presenting some identity in order to cast your ballot.

I am privileged to represent seven rural counties where the poll workers know most of the voters personally, but I can see how this might be a problem in the big cities.

Considering all the trouble in the Florida election recently, I feel a voter ID bill will pass the legislature this session.

There were two bills introduced to revise the Alabama Constitution.

There seems to be a lot of support from the universities, the media, and groups of interested individuals in this subject, but Alabamians in general do not seem to rate this as the highest of priorities.

I think revising our Constitution is the thing to do but we must be careful in the method we do it in order to insure fairness and balance on very sensitive subjects such as taxes, home rule, and expenditure of public funds.

There are a number of other important issues which will be addressed through legislation, including reapportionment of the congressional districts and the state legislative seats, and I will be discussing these with you in the weeks ahead.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who responded to my questionnaire which I put in this column a couple of weeks ago.

I was pleasantly surprised at the large number of responses which I received.

I will publish the findings of that poll within the next two weeks.

Remember, "I'll go with you or I'll go for you" to help you solve any problem related to state government.

During the legislative session, you can best reach me at 334-242-7883, or write me at Room 735, 11 South Union Street, Montgomery, AL 36130.