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Governor refuses to disclose expenditures

The "buzz" around the Capitol this week has been the governor's refusal to itemize expenditures from his contingency fund.

This news, together with the story about the Siegelman home selling for twice its appraised value, has diverted attention from the legislative agenda.

I was among several senators interviewed by the media with respect to the issue of disclosing expenditures from the governor's contingency fund.

As I stated to the press, I strongly feel that any public official at any level should disclose the source and purpose of any expenditure of public funds.

In my opinion, this is not only good public policy

it is the law in Alabama.

The governor's contingency fund is established by sections 36-13-30 through 36-13-33 of the Alabama Code.

Nothing in these code sections exempts the contingency fund from the public records law which provides for such disclosure.

In addition to public policy arguments and legal arguments, there is an express authority within Alabama law for the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts to examine and audit the books, records, vouchers, accounts, supporting papers and documents relating to the public expenditure of taxpayers funds.

The conclusion to the matter is that there is plenty of policy and law in place for the proper handling and disclosure of a governor's contingency fund expenditures.

This issue could become a political football, as such issues usually are in election years, but it also can be quickly settled if properly handled.

With regard to the sale of the governor's residence in Montgomery, I am unaware of the details with respect to that transaction, but it obviously has also become a "political subject" in and around the state.

The legislature had a joint session this past week during which time Vonetta Flowers, the first black athlete to win a gold medal in the Winter Olympics, spoke about her experiences.

Ms. Flowers grew up in Birmingham and lives in Helena in adjacent Shelby County.

She was a track star at Birmingham's Jackson-Olin High School and UAB, where she is now an assistant track coach.

Her remarks made it evident that this was quite an experience for this young lady.

The House of Representatives and State Senate passed separate bills this past week to regulate crematories.

These bills were introduced several weeks ago, long before the discovery of the wrongdoing in the State of Georgia, but obviously the timing for the passage of these bills was very good.

Every state needs appropriate regulations imposed upon crematories in an effort to avoid the travesty which happened in Georgia.

Hopefully this bill will soon be passed by both bodies and sent to the governor for his signature.

The Senate continued to debate a bill related to out-of-state tuition for institutions of higher learning.

If this bill is not disposed of this week, then I am certain it will be pulled from the calendar so we may get to the state budgets.

I was in Highland Home Monday night to present some funds for the purchase of band uniforms at Highland Home School.

The school's outstanding principal, Randy Wilkes, presided over the meeting, and I presented the check to Sue Mims, a very enthusiastic band booster who contacted me about the school's needs, and the very well-liked and effective band director, Michael McKinley.

The band then gave a wonderful concert which was enjoyed by all.

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

You can reach me while the legislature is in session at 334-242-7883, or write me at 735 Alabama State House, 11 South Union Street, Montgomery, Alabama 36130.