Following Legislation on ALISON. I often mention bills in the blog by number, i.e. SB98. ALISON is the Alabama Legislative System Online and is a great tool for anyone to follow legislation. The system is pretty easy to navigate and I encourage readers to take the time to read bills of interest that are being debated. As time allows I'll put togther a few tips on how to navigate ALISON in a later blog post.
Highlights from Day 6 include:
I attended my first committee meeting of the day where my Emergency Contracting Revision Bill (SB98) was introduced. The committee agreed to the bill and it passed favorably. Surviving a committee is the first of many hurdles for any piece of legislation.
I then hurried to my next committee meeting, where I serve as a committee member. This committee discussed several bills, one dealing with coal ash that was held over for another public hearing and so we can further research the ramifications. I thought this was a great call - I don’t want to rush any legislation.
The Senate went into session at 10 AM and began to debate Rep Greg Canfields “Rolling Reserve” Education Budget Reform Bill.
I slipped out to cross the street and attend a ceremony at the Capitol where Governor Bentley awarded Huntsville's Baron Services with the 2011 Governor's Trade Excellence Award. I had planned to attend the lunch following the ceremony but the Democrats were in a filibuster, introducing several floor amendments to Canfields bill so I had to cut things short and return to the Senate Chambers. Congratulations to Baron Services - sorry I missed the lunch!
After a couple of hours of listening to the filibuster attempting to keep us from changing the way education budgeting is done – in other words, keeping things the way they have always been – we voted for final passage of Rep Greg Canfields “Rolling Reserve” in a 23 – 10 vote. Gov. Bentley signed the bill into law today (you can read the press coverage here). I supported this bill and don’t mind sharing that I was calling and texting area school superintendents from the senate floor seeking their thoughts and concerns. Reach back like this is priceless!
The Chess Game on the Senate Floor
The next bill we took up was a Budget Appropriations Bill. I mentioned this bill as it was passed out of General Fund committee yesterday. The bill is needed to move funds around within the 2010 budget (the budget passed by the previous legislative body) in order to make up for revenue shortfalls. The budgets are passed in March/April but don’t go into effect until October. Any changes made the following session must be done by legislation. This is being done in advance of anticipated proration by Governor Bentley for the 2011 General Fund.
The chess game I mention above is being played out by the Democrats as they’ve introduced an amendment to the appropriations bill to increase funding to the Ethics Commission. Problem is we don’t know where we’ll be able to make further cuts in the 2010 budget to move funds around. Their goal – simply to get the Republicans on record as voting against funding for the Ethics Commission. Our only option at this point was to adjourn, carrying the amendment over until we can work through this. You likely won’t read about this in the media. Imagine how effective our state government would be if people didn’t operate on hidden agendas!
Prior to adjourning the Senate received a message from the House that SB72 which closes the DROP program had passed with an amendment. I support this amendment as it establishes a Joint Interim Committee called “Keeping Alabama’s Best”. The intent is to study the current DROP program and look for ways to meet the original intent of the program without allowing it to be abused.
An interesting article in the Huntsville Times today concerning who has participated in the DROP program and the top 50 DROP participant account holders. You’ll be surprised to see who these people are and their position in public education. In short, this is why the program has to close. It is no longer sustainable and places the burden on children in the classrooms – including mine. I’m more than frustrated at the position I’ve been placed in by past leadership who allowed the well intended DROP program to be abused to this point but I’m willing to make the tough decisions that others did not have the courage to make. Honor, Courage and Commitment - That is why I was elected.
The Senate has adjourned until March 22nd. I will spend the first part of next week at home getting caught up and working on several legislative projects. I plan to attend the Ardmore City Council meeting on Monday evening and the deactivation ceremony for the Marine Corps Detachment at Redstone Arsenal on Tuesday. The detachment is moving to VA later this year – a downfall of the BRAC. It will be a bittersweet day as this is what brought me to Alabama in 1983 when I attended the Basic Ammunition School. I later returned as the Officer in Charge and retired from this command in 2003. Later in the week I will join my youngest daughter with several from our youth group at church on a mission trip in Birmingham. We’ve participated in this mission for several years and I look forward to a few days of scraping and painting homes in the inner city of Birmingham with future leaders in our communities.
I'll resume the blog when we return to session on March 22nd.