Special session rumors remain

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 14, 2004

Capitol corridors have been abuzz with talk of a special session to be called by Governor Bob Riley during the Fall of this year.

The main subject bantered about appears to be &uot;accountability&uot;.

I supported the Governor’s request last February for a special session on this subject but the votes in the Senate fell three short of what was needed to convene.

Email newsletter signup

Apparently the Governor is not giving up on the idea of pushing this subject, so I think it appropriate to mention a few ideas and concerns I have about accountability.

First of all, I do not think Alabamians will get accountability in government until we decide what it is.

So far, the idea of accountability has been &uot;in the eye of the beholder.&uot;

At a recent meeting in SanDestin, Florida, I participated in a panel discussion on this subject with House Speaker Seth Hammett of Andalusia, newly appointed Finance Director Jim Main, and the Director of the Public Affairs and Research Council of Alabama, Jim Williams.

I found it interesting that each panelist opened their remarks with the theme of needing to define the issue of accountability.

The word &uot;accountability&uot; sounds good, and we are all for it, but when it comes down to stating in clear terms exactly what we mean by this concept it becomes more difficult.

Unlike many states in our nation, Alabama’s Constitution requires us to balance our state budget.

That’s an accountability measure we can be proud of and build upon.

The problem comes that with so many earmarked taxes in Alabama, we can balance a budget and still not appropriate the money to the areas where the needs are greatest.

Of the revenue that flows to Alabama’s state treasury, earmarking locks 87% out of reach for new needs that arise.

On the other hand, the tax measure submitted by Governor Riley last Fall sought to unearmark funds and it failed miserably.

One of the reasons cited for the overwhelming defeat was failure to earmark.

So you can see, we are in a real dilemma.

The public wants to know (and deserves to know) where their money is being spent, and they do not trust the Legislature to spend it wisely.

The only solution the voters will apparently approve is more earmarking, while such action gravely limits efficiency in appropriations of monies.

In next week’s column, I am going to outline some specific suggestions I have in response to the accountability issue.

I would also welcome your suggestions on how to achieve a working definition of this term.

Senator Wendell Mitchell can

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

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