Full slate face legislative members
Rep. Ronald Grantland, Guest columnist
A few weeks ago marked the beginning of the 2006 Regular Legislative Session. There are many important issues that must be addressed, budgets need to be passed and reforms enacted.
Both the House and Senate are debating bills, and several have already passed the House. We have passed bills such as the No Bid Contract Accountability Act, which requires state agencies to disclose contracts that are awarded without competitive bidding, and the Budget Accountability Act, which prevents "pass-through pork." These bills are part of an effort to make our state government more transparent and more accountable with your tax dollars.
The most important job the Legislature does each year is to pass balanced budgets for education and other state services. Fortunately, Alabama is in good economic shape and revenue is up from years past. We can take advantage of our current prosperity and spend and save wisely. Instead of spending everything in sight, a normal reaction in an election year, we must be disciplined and willing to save for the future.
A credit card mentality of "buy now and pay later" will only hurt us down the line. The economy goes up and down, and history shows that when we pass election year budgets crammed with spending, it sets the stage for painful cuts in later years. Just as Joseph advised Pharaoh to store up the surplus during the seven years of plenty, so too should we as responsible leaders store up the good fortunes of today. We must work to pass our budgets, but we must ensure that the budgets are responsible and won't put Alabama in jeopardy in years to come.
We are cleaning up Alabama's system of campaign finance. Our current system essentially legalizes money laundering. Money flows from large corporations, Indian casinos, and other special interests, and passes from one political action committee to another then into campaigns, until the real source of the money is lost. Rep. Jeff McLaughlin has again introduced a bill that prohibits these PAC to PAC transfers.
Open and honest elections only come when a voter can know who funds campaigns. In Alabama, anyone can run an ad in opposition to an issue or attack a group of candidates, while hiding the funding source. We must demand disclosure at all times, and Rep. Randy Hinshaw has again introduced a bill to require the disclosure of money spent to influence the outcome of an election.
We are looking out for the soldiers who defend our rights and freedoms. Majority Leader Ken Guin has re-introduced a bill that requires the state to provide $250,000 in life insurance to any member of the Alabama National Guard who is deployed overseas in support of our country. It's the least we can do to show our appreciation for those fine men and women.
We plan to bring economic help to those that need it most. Just by traveling throughout our state, it's easy to see that a major highway running through a community or county is a prescription for growth, bringing jobs and access to the world.
We plan to give our teachers a much needed and deserved pay raise and extend the school year. We are protecting Alabama's students by making sure that education dollars go to where they are needed most-the classroom. We are restructuring our sentencing laws and get tougher on criminals, such as those who discharge a weapon in or around a school bus. There is much to do, and every legislative day is important. Everyone in the legislature must work together, regardless of party, to accomplish as much as we can for Alabama.
Citizens have an important role in the legislative process. Representatives are the voice of our communities, but input from you is critical as a guide to how legislation should go forward. I am in Montgomery from Tuesday through Thursday while we are in session, and would like to hear any questions, comments, or concerns that you may have. You can reach me at (334) 242-7600. Please do not hesitate to call.