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Alabama Elections Directory 2006

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Legislature Tips Off Today

Today marks the beginning of the final general legislative session before the 2006 elections. Accordingly there aren't great expectations of the legislature ambitiously tackling controversial issues. Both parties want to score a few political points, refrain from embarrassing themselves, then get back to their districts to prepare for elections.

The AP has a good thumbnail sketch of the issues likely to be confronted over the next few months.

The budget process won't necessarily be as grueling as some years as revenue surpluses negate the need for painful budget cuts. However, how to use the the surplus will no doubt be a source of controversy. How much of it should be spent on schools? How much should be refunded to taxpayers? Legislators might be missing the good ol' days of proration after all.

One of the biggest issues in terms of setting the political landscape for the election year will revolve around property tax appraisals. The issue of the Riley administration's 2003 move to annual appraisals (as opposed to the once every four years method) has already become a political football in the governors race, with Roy Moore and Don Siegelman critical of the annual system. Riley has said the annual appraisal method is required by law and a reversal to the old way would require a change in the law.

Well that is exactly what some in the legislature will try to do. Nobody wants to be seen as pro-tax, especially in an election year. Certainly Bob Riley would appreciate the issue disappearing, Lowell Barron is on board, and according to the AP a majority of legislators (who responded to the question) would back the return to the once every four year standard.

But it won't be that easy. Paul Hubbert doesn't like the idea of losing $170 million in school funding (and an extra $270 in government revenues) by abandoning yearly appraisals and is likely to use his considerable influence to keep the status quo in place. So that will be a showdown to watch that will impact races up and down the 2006 ballot.

There will be no shortage of hot button controversial issues for sure. The GOP plans to submit legislation dealing with immigration (Mickey Hammon), abortion (Spencer Collier), capital punishment (Cam Ward), and super-majority tax increases (Bobby Humphryes).

Democrats have already drawn considerable attention for their Bible literacy bill( Ken Guin) and a bill to put "God Bless America" on state license plates (Steve Hurst). Alabama Democrats obviously are doing all they can to demonstrate their "Alabama values" so they don't suffer the same fate their national brethren did in 2004. But a Democratic led effort to rewrite the Alabama constitution is not likely to go anywhere.

Democrats are content, however, to let Bob Riley make the first step in the budget process and react to his plans instead of introducing their own budget. And that process will start tomorrow evening with the State of the State address.

Let the games begin.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This letter appeared in the Montgomery Advertiser on Christmas day and reflects my thougts:

Voters need to start sweeping

The Dec. 13 story "Amendment to remove segregation language from constitution unlikely in 2006," attributed statements to three state representatives (Rep. Neal Morrison, Rep. John Rogers, and Rep. James Buskey) and gubernatorial candidate Roy Moore which should be very disturbing to Alabamians.

In various ways they all said what Rep. Rogers seems to have said best about our legislators: "Everyone is scared to do anything." The reason: 2006 is an election year. I submit that if our Legislature is afraid to take any action that may be controversial one year out of every four, voters need to clean house on Goat Hill and repopulate it with public servants who have the guts and the integrity to do the people's business every year, rather than spend a quarter of their terms timidly biding their time so as to enhance their chances to re re-elected.

When Rep. Alvin Holmes is quoted as saying that changing the constitution is not a controversial issue, that demonstrates a flabbergasting lack of understanding of the issue on his part. He, and other legislators of the same mental ability, need to be swept out of office while the voters are wielding their brooms.

5:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Given some of the silly things that have come out of the Alabama Legislature (Amendment One comes to mind) as currently structured, I favor a "reform" that would fund one paid legislative assistant per legislator, as presently there are none.

Generally, I am loathe to given any additional resources to a politician, but I do think the Alabama legislators would be better off if they didn't have to rely so much on the special interests (the liberal Alabama Law Institute comes to mind) for research and drafting of legislation.

Such a reform would not end the influence of special interests but it would improve the balance of power.

8:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there a surplus?

In a letter to the Governor last year Hank Sanders pointed out several issues that I think are important to this discussion. The whole letter is avalable on the AEA website. Kind of ironic isn't it.

"We are still paying on that bond issue at the rate of $28 million a year. Worse still, we will be paying $70 million a year on that one bond issue starting in 2009. Worst of all, we will be paying this sum until 2019."

"We still owe nearly $1 billion on various bond debt in the Education Trust Fund."

"We are currently paying over $111 million a year on those debts."

"We must repay the Rainy Day Fund some $72 million over the next two years."

"We could not even fund textbooks for our children. We reduced the K-12 general budget category known as other current expenses (OCE) by $100 million in 2001. We still need $32 million just to repair damage from four years ago."

"We need to still make sure that we have adeuqate number of teachers to teach our kids."

Are we buying votes on the backs of our children?

8:35:00 AM  
Anonymous SouthernLawyer said...

It's always a bit perplexing to see the ruling class tiptoe around the educationist lobby. Don't they know by now that you never win by playing defense on ground the other guy has staked out? That you must, instead, choose a field advantageous to yourself and attack?

Instead of aiming for a lower educrat pay hike or a tax refund rather than a building spending spree -- which are primarily pragmatic and defensive calculations -- Hubbard's opponents should attack this union boss on principled ground.

One possibility is to call for an end to the union monopoly on state funds for education. Parents should receive tax credits equal to the average local per pupil spending if they choose to homeschool or send their children to private school.

This ensures that different educational approaches can compete on a level playing field. It also ensures that parents who chose to avoid state school indoctrination for their children don't have to pay for it in addition to the funds they spend out of pocket to educate their children.

This kind of proposal may not get far when first introduced in the Legislature. But even talking about such an option will put the educrats on the defensive. They, like everyone else, know in their hearts that parents, not the state, are responsible for children's education. "It takes a family, not a village."

Reformers should also call for tax refunds to all families without children and families whose children are already adults. They shouldn't be paying taxes today to educate the children of other parents who are too lazy to take full and personal responsibily for their children.

It's time to stop blaming the system for the appalling indoctrination and miseducation of the children of Alabama families and instead fix it with structural reforms, not tinkering around the edges.

We don't need more buildings for fewer children and more pay for less education. We need to return the money the state has stolen in the name of the children to parents who take responsibility to educate their own children and to those who don't have school age children but are still being forced to pay "education" taxes.

9:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, the end to public education. The real agenda that lurks behind most attacks on AEA. What exactly is a poor Black Belt family supposed to do with your tax credits when the local public schools are closed from lack of support? Only 1 out of 3 Alabama households has school age children. If education -- which befits all citizens -- is not supported by all citizens, it becomes available only to the rich.

9:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

after reading all the above posts the remedy is really quite simple but getting the patient to take the cure is the problem. Banning Pac to Pac transfers is the only way we can have political accountablity and legitimate government services to the bosses, ie citizens.
without total sunshine transparency we are remain 2nd class citizens worthy of the lies and garbage that comes out of our govt every year. Sadly, it will take a major FBI sting to accomplish this, kinda like a ncaa death penalty SMU got some years ago. Our govt is unwilling to do right by us and 'us' is tired of corruption.

10:12:00 AM  
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