I stayed busy during Spring Break. I attended the Tennessee Valley Republican Club’s monthly meeting on Saturday morning and later that afternoon I participated in a car show at Creekside Elementary School benefiting the East Limestone County Quarterback Club. Great show! On Monday I got caught up on emails and other legislative items. I attended the Ardmore City Council Meeting that evening where the FBI recognized several local police officers and Limestone County Deputy Sheriffs for their participation last December in apprehending a bank robber. On Tuesday I was honored to be the guest speaker at the closing ceremony of the Marine Corps Detachment on Redstone Arsenal. This detachment was my first assignment after boot camp in 1983 and it is essentially what brought me to Alabama. The closing ceremony was bittersweet, but a grand day as the Ammunition School lives on! From Thursday through Saturday I participated with my daughter and the youth group from our church on a mission trip to Birmingham for Urban Missions 2011. I reconfirmed what a blessed group this is as we worked and worshipped together with young and old alike.
This Monday I attended the ground breaking for the Shoppes of Madison, anchored by a Target store in Madison on Monday. If all goes well this store will open in approximately one year and employ over 400 people; great news! Later I attended the Athens – Limestone County Hospital community update in Athens. It was very nice seeing everyone and listening to the plans for the hospital’s remodeling and growth. On Monday evening I attended the Madison County Republican Party Executive Committee meeting on Monday evening. Congressman Mo Brooks attended and provided a brief update of their activities in Washington.
Back To Montgomery
I arrived in Montgomery for this week’s work a little after 9 am today. At 10 am I attended the Legislative Ethics Training required by the laws we passed during the special session back in December. I’m left wondering why there has never been legislative ethics training in the past!
I was able to briefly meet with members of Madison Academy as they toured the Capitol and State House this afternoon. I was able to even join them for a picture with Governor Bentley.
From the Senate Floor - Today’s Session
DROP Bill – We spent a considerable amount of time debating this item and eventually voted 34 – 0 to non-concur with the House version sending this Bill to Conference Committee for reconciliation. I was disappointed in the Democrat leadership as they continued to debate saving the bill rather than admitting that the DROP Program had been thoroughly and complete abused from its original intent (see comments from previous blog entries below). Report – the bill reported out (in a 4 – 2 vote, along party lines) to leave the DROP program as transferred from the house. I commend the Senate Pro-Temp for allowing the press to attend the conference committee meeting, allowing for unprecedented transparency on the proceedings of a conference committee. The committee conferred with the Governor’s office as well as the Legislative Fiscal Office and the Retirement System of Alabama and found no way to further fund the program in its current state. The closing date of the bill was unchanged from the earlier version and establishes a committee to study the plan to develop a delayed retirement program that may be introduced in the future. I will support such a plan so long as participation is limited to those earning a specific amount (i.e. less than $75K a year) and that once a person has decided to exercise their right to participate in a deferred retirement program, they must retire after completing the program. Projected savings from closing the program is in excess of $45M this year alone. I concur that the program has been thoroughly and completely abused – as evidenced by the fact that none of the top 50 account holders are classroom teachers but instead are state employees already making in excess of $100,000 annually. How can anyone not see that the current program is breaking the state and our children’s future?
We continued debate on the appropriations bill that Senator Orr introduced when we were last in session. The Chess Game mentioned in the blog on Day 6 continued as meaningless posturing, grandstanding by the Democrat Senators continued well past 7 PM. I can’t wait for them to actually do something productive and actually contribute to a solution. For example, a comment made tonight – “We come down here every year and grapple with the issues of our budgets. When are we going to begin addressing some of this?” Seriously…you’ve been in charge for how many years and how many budgets and now you want to know when we are going to start fixing the problem. Pay attention – we are doing it now. We are showing the courage to make decisions that your party was unwilling to make as they controlled the legislature in years past.
Tomorrow morning I have breakfast with the Governor at the Governor’s mansion. He plans is to meet with Senate and House members in small groups throughout the session. I then have a packed committee meeting schedule with several overlapping times...how to be in more than one place at the same time? I start with a Banking and Insurance Committee meeting at 8:30, then over to the Education Committee meeting, which also starts at 8:30. At 11:30 I will chair the Military and Veterans Affairs Committee meeting but hope to finish up in time to present a bill on the Brewery Modernization Act to the Small Business Committee which also starts at…you guessed it, 11:30. Things slow down a bit in the afternoon as I have a Joint Transportation Committee meeting at 2:00 and then a General Fund Committee meeting at 2:30. That’s what you call a busy committee day.
The Senate adjourned for the day at 8:42 After a quick bite to eat for dinner I’ll spend the remainder of this evening reading up on the bills that will be presented in each of tomorrow’s committee meetings.