Back in the District
July 8, 2007
As I returned home after the legislative session ended a few weeks ago, I remembered the old saying, “there’s no place like home.” There is a special comfort in sleeping in your own bed, being in familiar surroundings, and returning to your loved ones. Undoubtedly, all the members of the Alabama House of Representatives share those same feelings now that we have returned home to our respective districts.
While it’s great to come home and reconnect with friends in our district, it’s unfortunate that this session will be remembered for inactivity, stalling, and a fight that has already been widely reported. However, it is important for people to realize that our state Legislature is comprised of two separate bodies—the House and the Senate.
In this past session, the House passed numerous pieces of significant legislation. Yet, much of our hard work was done in vain. For most of the session, the Senate failed to pass anything, as the Republican minority shut down the legislative process in a seemingly never-ending filibuster.
Many worthy pieces of legislation died while awaiting action by those in the upper chamber. Some of the bills that died would have:
- required all groups to disclose the source of funding for electioneering communications and paid political advertisements;
- prohibited a political action committee (PAC) from making a campaign contribution to another PAC;
- required individuals soliciting no-bid contracts from state government to register as lobbyists with the Ethics Commission;
- required individuals and businesses that contract with the state to certify that they have not knowingly hired an illegal immigrant;
- allowed forfeiture of property for those convicted of soliciting a child by computer or transmitting obscene material to a child by computer.
In spite of the deadlock, record-breaking budgets and the bond issue were signed into law.
We passed a $6.7 billion Education Budget, which includes a 7% pay raise for education employees, a $5 million increase for pre-K programs, a $3 million increase for the Alabama Reading Initiative, and a $14 million increase for math, science and technology programs.
We also passed a $1.8 billion General Fund Budget, which will provide a 3.5% pay raise for state employees, as well as funding for services such as Medicaid, state troopers, public roads, highways, public health, the court system and corrections facilities. These programs are vital to the people of our state and the lives of many Alabamians are contingent upon adequate state funding.
We also approved a bond issue of more than $1 billion to provide building funds for every public school system, two-year college, and four-year school in the state. The bond issue is the largest school construction spending program in our state’s history. It also includes a $15 million supplemental appropriation for schools in black belt counties, as well as money for schools affected by natural disasters.
Even though we were able to do some positive things for our state, we can, and should, do better.
The good thing about democracy is that many of the “dead” bills aren’t permanently dead. While those bills did not pass this year, hope is not yet lost. When the legislature reconvenes next February, hopefully the Senate will be able to rise above their problems and do what’s best for Alabama.
Until then, though, it’s great to be back home. I look forward to addressing address the needs of our district, as well as any other questions or concerns that you may have. If I can ever be of service to you in any way, please do not hesitate to call. I look forward to hearing from you.