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Financial burden in legislative lap

By Staff
Bob Ingram, Alabama Scene
MONTGOMERY – If you can believe the talk on Goat Hill, the regular session of the Legislature may take a break in a few weeks and then re-convene in a special session to focus exclusively on Gov. Bob Riley's legislative package to resolve the financial crisis facing education and the General Fund.
No date has been mentioned for the special session, but it could come as early as the last week in April.
What proposals Gov. Riley will submit to the lawmakers remain unknown. He has insisted he will seek no tax increases at this time, hopeful that the sweeping economies he has ordered coupled with some limited un-earmarking of existing taxes will provide enough relief to get through the current year.
This plan also has its political advantages for Riley … he will in effect be tossing the ball into the collective laps of the legislators and telling them in so many words to "put up or shut up."
The all-important procedural vote was 53-45 to consider the bill, a half-dozen votes shy of the required percentage.
House Speaker Seth Hammett, D-Andalusia, said this vote probably killed the measure for this session.
"It will probably not get another chance this year," Hammett said.
Even if it had been brought up and passed the Legislature, it faced a certain veto by Gov. Riley, who said its passage would lead to an expansion of gambling in the state.
Joyce Bigbee, the Legislative Fiscal Officer, said despite this encouraging development, it was still all but a certainty that Gov. Riley will have to dip into the state's "rainy day fund" to prevent proration of the education budget.
It is there where the ASU Hornets bounce basketballs, so what better place for the fiscal folks to write checks that bounce?
In what can only be described as mind-boggling, state auditors have reported that during fiscal 1999-2000 ASU paid $519,712 in service charges and interest on checks they issued which bounced.
You have to write a lot of bad checks to run up charges like that.
And these very same Alabama state officials have been complaining for years that they are not sufficiently funded.
The folks responsible for this inexcusable mis-spending should be sent packing, and if they get any severance pay, it would be only right if those checks bounced.
In the process, she saved the taxpayers a great deal of money which would have been spent if the matter had gone to court.
Baker was one of more than 50 people appointed to various posts and commissions by Gov. Don Siegelman at the tail-end of his administration. Gov. Riley sought to have all of those nominations voided, but the Democrat-controlled Senate confirmed them instead. Riley then threatened to take the Baker appointment to court, resulting in her commendable decision to resign.
Now is a good time for the Legislature to address this issue of appointments made by lame duck governors.