Public hearing on Constitution to be held Wednesday

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 16, 2002

Action on the floor of the House and Senate got back to normal this week in the legislature.

The slowdown tactics employed in the House of Representatives came to a halt on Tuesday and a vote was taken on the Higher Education Bill in the Senate.

These tactics had tied up all activities in the respective chambers for the past two weeks.

The House of Representatives went to work promptly on the state budgets.

Under the general fund operating budget passed on Tuesday, state agencies would get $18.7 million less than last year.

The budget contains no money for a pay raise for state employees and most agencies would get level funding from the prior year's budget.

The Ways and Means Committee of the House, which first acted on the budget several weeks ago, gave a substantial increase to state troopers and the medicaid agency.

When the budget reached the floor, both of these increases were deleted.

Several tax measures were presented to the House members for consideration, but none of them garnered enough votes for passage.

Without this additional revenue, the House leadership felt strongly that no pay raises or overall budget increases for agencies would be practical.

Much of the House debate centered around a pay increase for state judges.

Three years ago, the legislature passed a bill increasing the judges' pay to the regional levels of other states.

However, this pay raise was set up to kick in over a period of three years.

This is the third year of that arrangement.

The House adopted an amendment to the general fund bill which eliminates the third year of the pay raise increases for judges.

This issue will no doubt be further debated when it reaches the Senate floor.

The House of Representatives also took action with respect to the rewrite of Alabama's Constitution.

The rules committee has scheduled a public hearing for March 13 on a proposal to allow voters to decide whether or not to hold a convention for this purpose.

There continues to be much strong debate with respect to reforming the Constitution and I look for a very lively public hearing to take place.

The Senate took up the six separate bills involving the Constitution which had previously passed the House.

One was passed, one was defeated and four were carried over.

I believe this will be indicative of the divided opinion on this important issue.

Let me encourage you to attend this public hearing on March 13 if you desire to be heard on this issue.

Citizens will be able to sign up to start speaking at 9:30 a.m. in the House of Representatives.

The Senate had an interesting visitor to our chamber this week.

The ambassador to the United States from Great Britain spoke on the Senate floor and his remarks were extremely interesting.

The ambassador spoke of the longstanding relationship between the United States and Great Britain and also of their firm commitment to the fight against terrorism.

In addition to the substance of his remarks, his British dialect kept everybody enthralled.

It helps to have a break like that during the heavy debate in which we have engaged over the past few weeks.

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

While we are in session, you can reach me at 11 South Union Street, Room 735 Alabama Statehouse, Montgomery, Alabama 36130 or telephone me at 334-242-7883.