Legislature kicks it up a notch

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 17, 2004

The Alabama Legislature is winding down the 2004 regular session and the pace of considering legislation has picked up considerably.

Last week, the Senate passed 54 general bills and 27 local bills.

This week we are meeting three legislative days, as opposed to the normal meeting times of only Tuesday and Thursday.

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It is not unusual for the Legislature to go into &uot;high gear&uot; near the end of a session, and usually the end result will be very positive and productive.

There is one major difference between this year and former sessions.

We have not yet begun to address the budget issues and there is precious little time left to take on such a time consuming assignment.

There seems to be general support for saving the Medicaid program but there is much disagreement among legislators and the Riley Administration on how to achieve a balanced budget.

If you put the needed revenue into the Medicaid program, then you sacrifice other areas of government because of the severe revenue shortage.

The latest revenue reports from the State Department of Revenue show that tax collections are up 6.4 % over last year at the same time.

This is the good news.

The bad news is that 95% of this additional revenue is earmarked for the education fund and none of it is available to bail out the Public Safety Department, the prisons or other agencies which desperately need money to stay afloat.

Rep. John Knight, chairman of the House Budget Committee, stated over the weekend that he feels many of our state agencies cannot operate on the funds that will be available to them.

What this means in terms of their future service to the state remains to be seen.

On a lighter note, last week was a very enjoyable time for me.

I hosted several newspaper editors throughout our senate district.

We began with briefings by Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley and Senate Budget Officer Joyce Bigbee.

The editors then attended a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting where several controversial bills were considered, and I provided for all of them a front row seat to hear all the proceedings involving the legislation which was discussed.

We then went to the Senate floor where I offered an opportunity to all the editors to question me on any matter related to my senate service, and we followed this with a luncheon at the Capital City Club in Montgomery.

It was a special day to me, and I think the editors enjoyed getting a &uot;up close and personal&uot; look at the inner workings of the Alabama Senate and Legislature in general.

I hope each of you had a wonderful Easter.

There is nothing more important to us than to be reminded of why we are privileged to live on this earth and of our hope for the life hereafter.

The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is the centerpiece of our faith and our hope.

Senator Wendell Mitchell can

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

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