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Riley#039;s State of the State#039; highlights

The first week of the 2003 Regular Session of the Alabama Legislature is now behind us.

It was highlighted by the Governor’s &uot;State of the State&uot; address on opening night.

Other than the Governor’s message, the week was rather uneventful except for some outside activities which always keep a legislator busy for the first several weeks of the session.

The various groups which lobby the Legislature – teachers, lawyers, farmers, accountants, state employees, dentists, doctors, you name them – always want to host a reception early in the session so they can interact with legislators and promote their legislation for their respective groups.

I went to eight legislative receptions and dinners this first week of the session, including a fine occasion at the Montgomery Civic Center hosted by the Alabama Baptists and an outstanding event in Birmingham sponsored by the Christian Coalition of Alabama.

I was privileged to be at the head table for the &uot;Friends of the Family Celebration&uot; at the Wynfrey Hotel in Birmingham on Saturday evening.

Governor Bob Riley was the keynote speaker and awards were given to United States Congressmen Jo Bonner, Mike Rogers, Robert Aderholt, and Spencer Bachus.

Special recognition and awards were presented to United Senators Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions.

Elmer Harris, former CEO of Alabama Power Company and presently head of an organization called Public Policy Advocacy Group of Alabama, delivered an arousing appeal for support of the work of the Christian Coalition of Alabama.

At the head table I was flanked on either side by Chief Justice Roy Moore and Public Service Commissioner George Wallace, Jr.

John Giles, Executive Director of the Christian Coalition, served as master of ceremonies and Bob Russell, former chairman of the organization and presently chairman emeritus, gave a welcome and introduced the guests.

The mission statement for the Christian Coalition is &uot;We believe that people of faith have a right and a responsibility to be involved in the world around them.

That involvement includes social, community and political action.&uot;

In my opinion, the membership of the Christian Coalition has made a significant impact on the landscape of Alabama politics, especially in recent years.

Almost every statewide election for public office over the last decade has been decided by less than four percentage points.

Those candidates which voice a belief in God and a strong attitude about sound fiscal policy have attracted many supporters from among the membership of this fine organization.

The audience at the dinner included Redding Pitt, chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, and Marty Conners, Chairman of the Republican Party.

There were a number of Democratic and Republican state legislators in attendance, so it was clearly a bipartisan gathering.

This was a nice, positive close to a long week which included reviewing the documents submitted by Governor Riley following his State of the State Address.

These documents, as was his speech, were replete with information as to how bad our fiscal condition is in Alabama.

It is rather depressing to pour over this information, especially when you know you are on the line to help find solutions to the problems.

This clearly will be the most difficult legislative session since I have been in public office.

The one statement which the Governor made which I wholeheartedly endorse is his declaration that government must first cut out waste and begin operating efficiently before any tax increases need to be considered.

I will certainly support him in the effort to make government more accountable for what it presently spends.

Until next time, remember, &uot;I’ll go with you or I’ll go for you&uot; to help you solve any problem related to state government.

Senator Wendell Mitchell can be reached at 334-242-7883, or by writing to P O Box 225, Luverne, Alabama 36049.