Politics never end in State Capitol

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 13, 2002

The Alabama Legislature did not meet in formal session this past week but that did not keep "politics" from being center stage in and around the state capitol.

Two groups held two separate press conferences on political subjects and both got their share of the headlines.

The governor's attorneys, who are defending him against charges of inpropriety with respect to his personal finances, conducted a news conference in front of the federal courthouse in Montgomery in which they asked U.S. Attorney Leura Canary to recuse herself from the investigation.

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It was quite a show.

One of the lawyers for the governor brought a birdcage with three canaries inside and kept referring to the prosecutor as a "singing canary."

They alleged that the prosecutor has a conflict of interest because of her husband's association with two sitting Republican office holders.

As a lawyer, and as the dean of a law school, I abhor such public shenanigans over legal questions.

There are procedures in place to present legitimate legal concerns in a formal and appropriate manner.

But realistically, I suppose we cannot expect anything different than we are getting in a political year.

It seems that elections often bring out the worst in us and I would put in that category negative campaign ads.

In my judgement, negative campaign ads about one's opponents merely impeach his or her own integrity and they have no place in one's seeking public office.

Another group involved in a public news conference was citizens advocating constitutional reform.

The group charged that "election year politics, the reluctance of legislators to give up power, and the indifference of the voters" have combined to doom constitutional reform.

There is some truth in these statements, but on the whole, they are

misleading and stop short of painting the full picture about constitutional reform.

First of all, as a legislator I have absolutely no reluctance to turn local issues over to local citizens and office holders.

And I am quite confident that the great majority of the members of the legislature share my views in this regard.

Through the years, I have been fortunate to work with many local mayors and councils and county commissions who, through cooperation with the legislative delegation, have achieved a number of goals through legislation.

However, most of them will tell you that I do not covet the role of being a "player" in the passage of local issues.

On the other side of that coin, I can share with you that many local groups have approached their legislative delegations urging them to not give unlimited power to local city and county governments.

These groups feel the check and balance of having these issues initiated at the local level and finalized at the state level is important to the process.

I would like to hear your views on this particular issue.

Please take the time to drop me a note or call me to express your views on this important subject.

Although the legislature probably will not pass many bills relating to constitutional reform this term, constitutional reform is not dead.

In fact, I predict that it will be one of the first major issues to be put on the front burner following the next elections.

The budgets will be the main focus of the State Senate this week.

A court settlement of a lawsuit that took place in recent days will add considerable funds to the state treasury which should ensure some cost of living raise for teachers and state employees.

Those of us who advocate a fair distribution of education funds between higher education and elementary and secondary education will be working to see that such division is accomplished.

In the meantime, please know that "I'll go with you or I'll go for you" to help you solve any problem related to state government.

You can contact me while the Legislature is in session at 334-242-7883 or by mail at P O Box 225, Luverne, Alabama 36049.