Session, ‘Right sizing’ starts Tuesday

Published 12:02 am Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Alabama Legislature will consider a number of measures to “right-size” government expenses when it convenes this Tuesday, Sen. Jimmy Holley said Friday.

Rep. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, said he also hopes to help “right-size” legislation that is passed.

Holley, R-Elba, said among the first things the Senate will consider is legislation restructuring the legislative branch of government.

“We have some dysfunctional aspects of the government that have developed over the last several years to where there’s a lot of people who are hired to do the job with very little oversight,” he said.

One example, he said, is when committees hire employees to whom they delegate authority. Another is that there are three different security groups for the legislative branch of government.

“We need to consolidate that, put in a pay scale and name a (human resources) director so that persons will have to be qualified.

“This will dovetail nicely into some other legislation,” he said. “We have to clean up our own back door first.

“Like with public safety, what we are trying to do is get the size of government to fit the amount of dollars we have.” The consolidation aspect of the legislative session will deal with right-sizing General Fund expenditures with the sizes of the departments and services.

Two of the largest drains on the General Fund budget are Medicaid and corrections, he said. The state must look at the delivery of health care services, he said, as well as address problems in the Department of Corrections, where recent reports of overcrowding and abuse have put the system in danger of federal takeover.

“Whatever structure we need to come up with, whatever we need to do, we don’t need to get under the direction of the federal government in our prison system,” Holley said.

Jones said he has been working with other members of the Republican caucus to ensure that the House deals with fewer bills.

“We want more quality than quantity,” he said.

He also is working with others to repeal old, “bad” laws, he said.

Jones has worked with the state Department of Human Resources on a bill that will speed up the process of terminating parental rights for adoptions.

He’s also working with the governor’s office on legislation that would streamline the process of getting hunting permits for out-of-state residents who would participate in hunting events for persons with disabilities. With one purchase, organizers could cover 10 hunters, he said.

The state can’t waive the permits, he said, because it depends upon data collected with hunting permits for federal conservation funding.

Jones’ HB 8, which was pre-filed in September, strengthens the rights of Alabamians to bear arms and is expected to get state media attention. See “Jones: Bill will protect gun rights,” Jan. 4, Andalusia Star-News.

While the General Fund budget is still in what Holley called “desperate” condition, it appears there will be an increase in the Education Trust Fund budget for the first time since 2008.