Hyundai groundbreaking quite an event

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 4, 2002

The Hyundai groundbreaking ceremony for its new plant to be located just south of Montgomery took place this past week. It was quite a show. It would rival almost any Hollywood production that you can think of.

The ceremony took place on the site of the future plant under a huge white tent that had seating for more than 500 people. Every seat was full and there were hundreds of people standing either inside or just outside the tent.

There was a long red carpet that was laid from just outside the tent on the left side all the way to the speakers' platform. There were two podiums, one for the program speakers and one for the emcee.

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At the 11 o'clock hour, the emcee announced the entrance of Gov. Don Siegelman, the chairman of the board of Hyundai Corporation, members of our congressional delegation and local officials. The program, printed in both English and Korean, consisted of remarks by the governor, the chairman of Hyundai, a high ranking representative of the South Korean government, Congressman Earl Hilliard, Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright and United States Senator Jeff Sessions. There were several standing ovations for the various speakers and particularly for the Hyundai representatives.

Following the elaborate program, lunch was served in an adjoining tent and the food consisted of one-half dishes of Korean food and one-half preparations of southern cooking. This was the first time I had ever had Korean Bar-B-Que. It was extremely hot (spicy) and very tasty.

There were no assigned tables for the luncheon and I happened to sit by two of the South Korean executives who accompanied the Hyundai chairman to Montgomery. They both spoke fluent English and both seemed extremely excited about being our newest citizens.

It was a very impressive occasion and I believe the company will be good for employment opportunities and industrial development growth in our region.

The Alabama Legislature's current term is now in the history books, barring a special session, and I believe those who rate the legislature's performance will give a good grade to the accomplishments of this last quadrennium.

The four-year term began in 1999 with Alabama's first Republican lieutenant governor in more than a century fighting to keep from losing the traditional power of that office. There were many tense moments with heated exchanges during the first few months but this all eventually settled down and the entire membership became congenial and productive.

This legislature achieved something no other legislature in Alabama history has ever accomplished. It drew new political districts for the legislature, Alabama's Congressional seats and the State Board of Education. All of these plans were approved by the U.S. Justice Department.

This legislature placed limits on big jury verdicts and lawsuits, mandated that all motorists carry liability insurance, and put new restrictions on abortion clinics. It also passed a criminal background check for teachers and a restricted driving privilege bill for 16-year-olds.

The legislature successfully handled spending concerns generated by proration in the education budget, and it did that without any new consumer taxes. Voter ID legislation, smoking restrictions in public buildings and constitutional reform went further in the process than at any time in the history of our state but all three of these major issues did not receive final passage.

For the first time in history, the state budgets did not go to a conference committee for three years running. This is quite an accomplishment, considering the many demands on state dollars and the effort required to satisfy a majority of those who spend state funds.

On the whole, this legislature performed in a fiscally responsible manner and was able to place into law some significant legislation that will have a positive effect on our citizens and the state of Alabama. There will be those critics who feel more should be done on constitutional reform, but I am of the strong opinion that this issue is not dead, and will be successfully dealt with in the next two years. Remember, "I'll go with you or I'll for you" to help you solve any problem related to state government. Contact me any time you feel I can be of service.