Battle to succeed Seth will be huge

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 12, 2010

When compared to the other three years of the quadrennium, the 2010 Legislative Session should be considered a success. First of all, any time the legislature passes the budgets on time it should be considered an accomplishment. This year they passed the Education and General Fund Budgets with days to spare but very little time or effort was expended in crafting and drafting these budgets. The documents have no rhyme or reason when compared to the actual fiscal needs. The legislature simply passed something knowing full well that the wheels are going to come off about the same time that the budgets go into effect in October.
However, you cannot blame legislators for passing the buck. Gov. Bob Riley takes the cake for kicking the can down the road. He wins the Pollyanna award for proposing a budget based on federal stimulus money that might or might not come in the future. Whoever inherits this ship of state is walking onto the deck of the Titanic. The gubernatorial aspirants should be required to undergo extensive mental examinations to evaluate their sanity for wanting the job of governor.
If ignoring the state’s financial dilemma were not bad enough, Riley has spent his entire last year in office with an obsessive mission to make electronic bingo the paramount focus of the state. He is determined that before he leaves office he will give the Indian gambling interests a monopoly in Alabama. After three months of relentless and warrantless raids on state-sanctioned, tax-paying Alabama operations the legislature was forced to act on the issue. They came forth with a simple bill to allow Alabamians to vote on whether to allow bingo at our state facilities, similar to what the Indians are allowed under federal law.
Riley then focused all of his attention and efforts on defeating and disallowing Alaba-mians the opportunity to vote on and help clear up and clean up the mess he had created. He used every advantage and leverage that the office of governor has to defeat the bingo vote by the people.
The legislature’s salvaging the state’s Prepaid Affordable College Tuition program (PACT) was the crowning achievement of the year. The program, which began in 1990, has been successful over the years. However, it was destined for death with 44,000 Alabamians stranded and their college savings gone. The legislative solution revives the plan and makes it solvent. It is shored up with $547 million over the next 17 years from proceeds from savings the state realizes as it pays off bond issues.
The legislative champions who spearheaded the efforts were Rep. Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, in the House and Sen. Ted Little, D-Auburn, (an Andalusia native) in the Senate. Dr. Paul Hubbert was the power behind the throne that suggested and gave his blessings to the solution to PACT’s salvation.
The surprise movement of the session was the passage of a $1 billion road program, which will be on the ballot in November. If you vote to approve this measure it will take $100 million a year out of the state oil and gas savings account to pay for this massive road building project.
Again, the House passed legislation to ban the PAC-to-PAC political campaign transfer money-laundering system. However, the Senate again refused to address the matter. Therefore, we are operating this year’s campaign with essentially no campaign finance law. There is no way to tell who is giving to which candidate under the current flawed law.
The session ended with the retirement of the revered Speaker of the House Seth Hammett. Seth represented Covington County for 32 years, the last 12 of which he has been Speaker of the House. The battle to succeed Seth for Speaker will be a donnybrook.
See you next week.