State has week of surprises

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 28, 2004

A week of surprises!

That is the way I would characterize the events of the past seven days.

The number one surprise has to be the resignation of Bill Pryor as Alabama's Attorney General, but that was just one in a series of actions which took place in the political arena during this time period.

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Another surprise came in the House of Representatives where the members worked late both days and passed several so called accountability and reform measures.

The most significant bill in the reform package would ban transfers of money among political action committees, a ploy often used to hide the sources of campaign donations from the voters.

I strongly support this bill.

I see no reason why any politician should not want the public to know who is giving money to his or her campaign.

The House also passed a number of bills related to tenuring of schoolteachers, as well as dismissal procedures for state workers and education personnel.

The surprising part of this legislative activity was that the Governor's office opposed the versions of the bills as they passed the House, citing a concern that they were not strong enough.

I had hoped that these accountability and reform measures would be worked out by agreement so at least something constructive could be achieved.

It looks like, however, that we are a long way from reaching an agreement on any matter before the Legislature.

Because I have this concern about lack of accomplishing anything, this past week I submitted a proposal to both the Senate Conservative Coalition and the Senate Democratic Caucus that has as its objective getting an agreement in the areas of reform, accountability, budgets and revenue options.

To my pleasant surprise, both caucuses enthusiastically endorsed my ideas regarding procedure, and it resulted in a very important meeting to take place this week at the State House between House and Senate leaders.

I have been appointed to a committee of eight from the Senate and we will meet with eight Representatives appointed by Speaker Seth Hammett to try to iron out an agreement in all of the above areas.

Unless we step forward, in my opinion, there will be little or nothing done to solve the fiscal crisis that we are experiencing in our state.

This crisis involves almost every service that is expected of state government.

This includes public safety, education, senior citizens services and operation of a state court system.

The cutbacks in all of these areas have become so severe that human suffering is going to be a consistent byproduct of our failure to find solutions.

Permit me a personal note about Bill Pryor before closing this column.

Bill is an outstanding lawyer and a patriotic American.

I have no doubt that he will distinguish himself as a federal judge, and I extend to him my sincere congratulations on this important assignment.

Senator Wendell Mitchell can

be reached at 334-242-7883, or by writing

to P.O. Box 225, Luverne, AL 36049.