Session end puts all on edge

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 10, 2004

The city of Brundidge showcased its latest economic achievement this past week, and I was pleased to be present for this very impressive occasion.

The Wal-Mart Distribution Center was dedicated with a ceremony that featured its own employees and Alabama Governor Bob Riley.

The audience included several hundred local citizens, public officials, Wal-Mart employees, and officers from the company headquarters in Arkansas.

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Jimmy Ramage, Brundidge’s outstanding mayor, introduced the Governor and thanked all those who had a part in bringing this high profile industry to the city.

It was my privilege to have some small part in the accomplishment of this task.

Almost four years ago, city and county officials approached me in an attempt to get industrial development funds for the project through a state bond issue.

After much maneuvering, and with a lot of good help and support, I was successful in getting several hundred thousand dollars in the bond issue to support this project.

As I recall, when this request was first made of me I was not even informed who the industrial prospect was.

It was kept secret for a period of time in order to tie down all the &uot;loose ends.&uot;

While this was my most enjoyable experience of this past week, I did spend much time on the Senate Floor where the Legislature was very active in considering and passing new legislation.

The Senate passed a bill allowing the display in classrooms and other public places of the Ten Commandments and also approved a limited home rule bill for Alabama’s sixty-seven counties.

The Home Rule bill would not give any county new taxing or zoning powers but would authorize the local governing bodies to deal with a significant number of other local issues.

Home Rule has been a hue and cry of the county governments since I first was elected to the Legislature.

Several attempts have been made to fashion a fair Home Rule bill but this is the first time any significant measure has passed either the House or Senate.

Three plans endorsed by Governor Riley that would raise taxes and fees by $13.1 million a year cleared a House legislative committee this past Wednesday and could be debated this current week on the House floor.

This same House committee also passed revenue-related bills pushed by the Governor that would change the distribution of the state lodging tax to shift $1.7 million a year from the Bureau of Tourism and Travel to the general fund, which helps pay for Medicaid, courts, child welfare and other state services.

The ad hoc committee which is working on a comprehensive package of bills to aid the financially strapped budgets continues to meet and will offer additional recommendations this week.

Even though this committee, of which I am a member, has spent much time and effort on developing its plan, it will be up to the full House and Senate as to whether or not it is favorably acted upon.

The Legislature is in the final one-third of its session and I anticipate that the pace of considering proposed legislation will quicken this week.

I will keep you informed on all developments related to the key issues before us.

Senator Wendell Mitchell can

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

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