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Diversity makes for a better state

Periodically I use this column to give you an accounting of my activities in the performance of my job as your state senator. It is my experience that the readers of my column find such reports to be of as much, if not more, interest to them than my addressing a single topic. At least, that's the way I gauge it based on responses I receive.

This past week I devoted one full day to reviewing state contracts as a member of the Legislative Contract Review Committee. By law, all contracts with state agencies must be submitted to this committee to be analyzed for subject matter, fairness and compliance with certain ethics rules.

The problem, in my opinion, is that the state law does not grant this committee authority to stop these contracts in the event we make a finding that there is some violation of a statute or ethics rule. We can only hold up the contract for 45 days and make known to the public our concerns.

I have long been an advocate of changing this law to put more "teeth" into the committee's ability to modify or cancel improper contracts. Too often, in my judgement, we allow the Administration to grant contracts for state work more on the fact of who they are than whether or not the recipient is the best person or company to do the job.

In any event, this committee looked at over three hundred contracts this past week ranging from highway construction to state docks work to computer contracts for schools. The only contract that appeared controversial related to work on our state parks. The concerns were more over the timeliness of the contract than the substance.

This past Friday, I had the privilege of being the recipient of the National Advocate Award given to a legislator selected from the 50 states by Easter Seals National Organization. I was notified in August that I would receive this award and that it would be given to me at a national ceremony in Washington D.C. in late November. However, due to the terrorist attacks the national meeting was cancelled so they brought the award to me and presented it at the annual Easter Seals Alabama Convention held in Anniston.

I am very honored to be recognized in this way. It has been a genuine pleasure and very rewarding to do what I could to help people with disabilities in our state.

Other activities in which I engaged over the past two weeks included meeting with Child Protect to present funds to support programs to aid abused children; being the speaker for the Retired State Employees Association Pike County Chapter in Troy; attending a performance of the Capital Steps sponsored by Troy State University; participating in the kick-off for the Buy.Com Professional Golf Tournament held at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Course in Prattville; being a part of the Homecoming Parade for Troy State University's Homecoming Court; dedicating a new welcome marker for the city of Prattville; attending an economic development dinner to honor Alabama's Congressional delegation at the Legends in Prattville; making a presentation to Crenshaw Christian Academy in Luverne; and speaking to the Brundidge Rotary Club.

This next week I will speak at a dinner in Goshen recognizing the achievements of students in the FFA program; host both Autauga County and Elmore County Leadership classes at the State Capitol, and be a part of a program involving the Alabama Counselors Association in Birmingham.

It is a privilege to represent you at all of these functions and activities and I hope you will call on me whenever you feel I can be of service in any way.

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