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Riley enjoys rare moment of triumph

By Staff
Bob Ingram, Alabama Scene
MONTGOMERY–Gov. Bob Riley, savoring one of his rare triumphs in the Alabama Legislature, called it "the most significant and fundamental reform in state government in decades." That might be what a wordsmith would call an hyperbole, but the five bill package to make a dent in the cost of health insurance for teachers, state employees and retirees was a step in the right direction. It is projected that the legislation will cut the cost of this perk by $60 million a year for the next five years. No small savings, admittedly, but as reported in this space before, the cost of this benefit for the public employees and retirees is expected to top $1 billion annually in the near future.
One notable change in the insurance plan is a requirement that employees/teachers who smoke will have to pay higher premiums; another provision will require those who retire before 25 years will also have to pay more for their coverage in retirement.
The Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSV) is suing Bear Stearns Inc., of New York in an effort to recoup about $16 million which it lost when it purchased what proved to be worthless WorldCom bonds from the firm. The case is now being weighed by a Montgomery County Circuit Court jury.
The "small world" angle to this story is that the Bear Stearns agent who sold the bonds to RSV has a very familiar name to football fans in this state–Richard Todd.
Todd, a native of Mobile, was an outstanding quarterback for Coach Bear Bryant at Alabama and later starred for the New York Jets. Todd was a key defense witness in the case for his firm and even attorneys for RSV said they did not believe he deliberately deceived them but that he had been deceived by his employers.
Ten days ago…mad at how badly Democrats were beaten in Alabama on Nov. 2…four face cards of the party–Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley, Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, Senate Pro Tem Lowell Barron and House Speaker Seth Hammett–issued a joint statement calling on Pitt to find employment elsewhere.
They demanded that the state committee call a special election in December to name a new chairman.
If that weren't enough, 16 members of the 19-member State Senate Democratic Caucus have now piled on Pitt as well. They sent a letter to the State Committee demanding that Pitt be replaced. Only two lonely voices have been heard in defense of Pitt–Congressman Artur Davis and Joe Reed, head of the predominantly black Alabama Democratic Conference. Reed said the ADC had unanimously passed a resolution in support of Pitt. If Pitt's head soon will roll, names mentioned as his possible successor include Tom Radney of Alex City, James Anderson of Montgomery and Giles Perkins of Birmingham.
Mathews was 87 on Nov. 16, and while his physical health is not what it used to be he is as mentally sharp as ever.
He is still a master storyteller although most of his yarns are not suitable to be shared in a family newspaper.
A virtual "Who's Who" of state political power brokers were on hand for the event which is always held in the barn…some would say appropriately.

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