Controversy rises throughout capitol

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 19, 2001

The Alabama Legislature is in its third week of a special session called by Governor Don Siegelman. The primary purpose for calling the session, as set out in the governor's proclamation, was to consider redistricting bills for Alabama's congressional seats and state school board districts.

The Senate has passed a congressional redistricting bill endorsed by all seven incumbent members of Congress, and the House of Representatives has passed a bill realigning state school board districts. Final action on both of these measures should be taken sometime this week.

There were also 34 state appropriation bills that failed to pass the legislature during the regular session and they were included in the Governor's call for the special session. All thirty-four bills have been passed by both houses of the legislature and sent to the governor for his signature.

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The primary issue remaining to be resolved by both houses is the economic development bond issue. This legislation was introduced at the request of the Governor to fund several projects throughout the state, including a major industrial venture in Pike County in our Senate District.

The "big ticket" item in this measure is a biomedical research center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The bill, as introduced, would allow the state to sell $53 million in bonds with $25 million of that dedicated to UAB.

This research facility would bring 1,400 jobs and more than $100 million in research funding to Birmingham, and the Jefferson County delegation is pushing hard to get this bill passed.

I think the biomedical research facility would be a good thing for the state of Alabama as a whole, and with the prospects of getting a major new industry in our area through the same bill, I am supporting this legislation.

All of the "action" in Montgomery this past week has not been on Capitol Hill. There has been a great deal of controversy involving Chief Justice Roy Moore's placing of a monument containing the Ten Commandments in the rotunda of the state judicial building. Several black legislators, including Montgomery Representative Alvin Holmes, have protested this action and have spent several hours at the judicial building on Dexter Avenue making their views known.

There was also another large group in town this week protesting the proposed plans of the Alabama Historical Commission to change the landscape on the front of the Capitol. As I understand it, the governor is pushing a proposal which would close part of Dexter Avenue and Bainbridge Street which intersect with the steps of the Capitol to put in some landmarks relating to the Selma to Montgomery Civil Rights March. I have asked the Alabama Historical Commission Director to give me in writing a copy of his plans. I want to review these because a number of constituents have contacted me who feel very strongly about not making any changes in the monuments and landscape which presently make up the state Capitol grounds.

This should be a busy week at the legislature. We will be meeting every day if necessary to conclude the work of the special session.

If I can help you in any way, remember that "I'll go with you or I'll go for you" to help you resolve any problem related to state government. I can be reached at 334-242-7883 while the legislature is in session.