I was honored to chair the first meeting of the session for the Military and Veteran’s Affairs Committee this afternoon. As has been our tradition started in 2010, we start each meeting with a moment of silence in honor of the men and women that stand on walls around the globe protecting our freedom to assemble and govern in Montgomery.
The committee passed several bills today including two bills (HB2 and SB264) addressing Stolen Valor. HB2 was passed by the House before Spring Break. SB264 was modeled after legislation drafted by the Medal of Honor Society. Each bill has its merits and our plan is to morph the two into a single bill making for a strong law regarding incidents of Stolen Valor. It is unfortunate that this has become a problem; so many service members have put their lives in danger and rightfully have been recognized for their valor on the battlefield. It is unconscionable that someone would “steal valor” by misrepresenting themselves in the community. The bills make a clear distinction that a violation occurs when someone attempts to gain something of value or special recognition by misrepresenting their service. While I certainly don’t agree in “musicians or rock stars” wearing the uniform as part of a stage act, the bills do not address this level of offense.
Another bill passed, the Veterans Hiring Act, allows private companies to establish written hiring practices where they can give a preference to hiring veterans. The intent is to protect a company from possible discrimination lawsuits based on preferential treatment for hiring veterans.
As reported in last night’s blog, SB44 was passed by the Senate and apparently has created some concerns over current year funding for ALEA. According to a press release by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA, formerly Dept of Public Safety) by passing SB44 “"The Senate voted to effectively take State Troopers off the road and scale back Alabama's state narcotics enforcement.”
My question is – how can a fee increase implemented by ALEA in February affect current year budgets? The state operates off a Fiscal Year (FY) budget calendar. EVERY state agency is currently working from the FY15 (2014 – 2015) budget passed during the 2014 session. We are working on the FY16 budget year now and as we’ve just completed the sixth month of the FY15 budget I don’t see how a two month old fee increase is suddenly taking troopers off the road. I’m pretty certain EVERY agency in State Government would love to have the ability to raise fees to cover current year operating expenses but that’s simply not how government is suppose to work. Of note, rumor is that other agencies with similar revenue raising abilities as ALEA are considering the same. We will see. A copy of SB44 is located here.
As I’ve stated before – a fee increase of some magnitude may be warranted however, an agency should not be able to increase fees on something required – a Driver’s License – by 54% without oversight from the representatives of the people – the Legislature. The end result of this fee increase is a $12.7M to ALEA’s budget.
And in closing, an update to my walk/jog/run 1,000 in 2015 challenge – I was able to put in 6 miles today (and plan to sleep well tonight!) putting me at 268 miles for 2015. To date we’ve had several people pass the 250 mile mark; keep up the great work and continue to run your race! We are tracking goals of 250, 500, 750 and the ultimate goal – 1000 miles throughout the year. You can join in at anytime and more information is located on the Home page.