March madness strikes

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 3, 2004

March is one of my favorite months of the year.

There are several reasons for the feelings I have about March.

The weather is usually as near perfect as we can expect, and it is a great joy to spend more time outside after experiencing the cold days of winter.

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I feel certain you, like me, enjoy the nice weather and the beautiful flowers as they first begin to bloom.

I love the game of basketball, and it is hard to beat "March Madness."

The tournament was particularly meaningful this year since Alabama and UAB did so well.

Troy State was also selected for the NIT Tournament.

The "spring break" is also special to me because my grandchildren are out of school and it gives me an opportunity to spend some quality time with them.

The Alabama Legislature usually takes this same period off, so this works out very well for me and my family.

The spring break this year has been especially needed because the Senate has really wrestled with some difficult subjects and at the same time has shown very little bottom line production.

As we near the halfway point of our session, we have not passed any so-called accountability and reform bills nor have we begun to debate the state budgets for the next fiscal year.

We have, however, devoted much energy to trying to find solutions for the budget shortfalls and attempting to determine what degree of reform measures can be adopted by both the House and Senate.

A committee of both Democratic and Republican Legislators recently unveiled a slate of more than $300 million in statutory taxes, along with some compromise accountability bills.

The report itself has created tension among the members and the Governor because the Administration is committed to a no new tax platform and yet it is almost impossible to fund state government without some new sources of revenue.

Some Senators are going out on their own to find revenue sources, such as the "Bingo for Books" bill which passed the Senate last week on a 21-9 vote.

The tension is further intensified because certain special interests groups are trying to characterize the Bingo Bill as a gambling measure.

The bill is a tax on gambling that already exists in our state.

I received a letter this week stating that "to tax gambling is to legitimize it."

In my view, this is very fallacious reasoning.

This bill is not about gambling, it is about taxing gambling profits.

I have a twenty-two year consistent voting record against gambling.

I do not desire to see our state become any kind of gambling mecca, either through a lottery or casinos or any other type gambling, but that does not mean we should not tax and get revenue from gambling interests that are already in place.

There is one further important factor in this bingo for books bill.

It does not take affect unless it is approved in a statewide referendum.

In other words, the people of Alabama will have the final say.

If the Legislature does not come to grips with our financial problems within the next two weeks, then you can look for at least one, maybe more, special sessions to be called by the Governor before the next fiscal year begins in October.

That, in my opinion, would be a waste of taxpayers dollars.

Senator Wendell Mitchell can

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

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