Educators, students meet on capitol steps

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 2, 2002

This past week produced a variety of interesting "happenings" at the Statehouse and around the capitol in Montgomery.

Early in the week, former State Highway Director Jimmy Butts, along with two high profile lobbyists, were sentenced to prison for taking kickbacks related to highway projects during the last administration.

On Thursday, busloads of college students converged on the state capitol to demand more money for higher education.

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In the legislature, the senate passed a bill providing for lethal injection as an alternative method of execution for capital crimes.

There was also a public hearing on a bill to penalize individuals who give illegal gifts to prospective athletes who are being enticed to attend public universities in the state of Alabama.

The House of Representatives remained stalled through seldom used filibuster tactics and did not consider any legislation over the full week.

At the education rally, there were over 2,000 students and higher education personnel.

They filled the streets in front of the statehouse and used an amplified system to make their message known to the legislature.

Alabama's traditional split of education funding between K-12 and higher education is two-thirds to one-third.

That split has been altered somewhat in recent years as the state has tried to provide the funding for K-12 schools without reforming taxes.

The rally featured a keynote speaker, Dr. Bailey Thompson, a journalist and professor at the University of Alabama, who also heads up the Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform (ACCR).

Dr. Thompson told the crowd that the state will never solve its education problems until the tax system is reformed and the 1901 Constitution is re-written.

Education will continue to be at the forefront of the issues in this year's gubernatorial race.

It seems that our state goes from crisis to crisis when it comes to funding public education, both at the K-12 and higher education levels.

Hopefully some meaningful solutions will soon be put on the table for consideration.

The stalling tactics in the House of Representatives are mainly by Republicans who are displeased with the outcome several days ago of a statewide congressional redistricting plan.

The protest is supported by a lengthy reading of a bill containing 1,050 pages that is referred to in legislative vernacular as "Big Bertha."

This nickname comes from the size of the bill as well as the method used to slow down the process.

Unless "Big Bertha" is withdrawn from consideration, the House of Representatives could be bogged down until the budgets are presented in about two weeks.

Hopefully this will not happen because it could have devastating effects on all good pending legislation.

The lethal injection bill now goes to the House of Representatives where it has solid support for passage.

Alabama is one of only a handful of states who do not offer alternative methods of execution for felonious acts.

The governor has publicly committed to sign the bill if it passes the legislature.

One of the more enjoyable parts of my job as state senator is to receive constituents from across the District.

This past week a large group of county commissioners, county engineers, several probate judges and their staffs were in Montgomery for annual meetings and to call on their legislators.

We also had a group of homebuilders and large numbers of educators who accompanied the students at the education rally, and it was a pleasure to visit with all of these constituents.

Until next week remember, "I'll go with you or I'll go for you" to help you solve any problems related to state government.