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Legislature off to a rocky start

By Staff
Bob Martin, The Alabama Scene
There haven’t been any punches thrown yet, but the legislative season In Montgomery picked up this month just about where it left off last year at adjournment, with Gov. Bob Riley and the Democratic majority tossing linguistic salvos at each other.
Last week Democrats passed resolutions blaming the governor for ordering annual property reappraisals and resolving that he should read the statutes like all past state governors and order a return to reappraisals every four years. Riley shot back with this statement: “I don’t care how many resolutions they pass, I am not going to break the law.”
State Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville replied, saying: “The truth is that Gov. Riley created annual reappraisals and he can stop them.” Sen. Larry Dixon, R-Montgomery, accused Democratic lawmakers of using the resolutions aimed at Riley just to score political points.
It has been assumed that going back to reappraisals every four years would help homeowners, but with residential property values at their lowest point in years, annual reappraisals reflecting the depressed housing market could be a boon to taxpayers since they wouldn’t have to wait four years for property tax relief.
Democrats are sponsoring legislation to require the State Board of Education to operate under the Administrative Procedures Act, like all other state boards and agencies. The Act provides that rules and regulations of state boards must be approved by the legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative Regulations (The Legislative Council) made up of 30 legislators. Proponents of the legislation say that the School Board follows the Act when it meets with State School Superintendent Joe Morton but doesn’t follow the law when it meets with the chancellor of the two-year colleges, Bradley Byrne.
Byrne and Riley see it as an attempt by the legislature to take over the State School Board and renew what Byrne called “double-dipping” by legislators.
Democratic lawmakers, however, believe Byrne is fearful, not that the legislature would have oversight over the policies of the State School Board like it does other agencies, but that it would thwart Byrne’s ambitions to use the two-year-college scandal to succeed Riley in the governor’s chair.
If fisticuffs don’t fly this session, I’ll be surprised.
Chief Justice Cobb addresses lawmakers
Last week for the first time in 19 years, Alabama’s chief justice has given a State of the Judiciary address to a joint session of the legislature. Former Chief Justice Sonny Hornsby made the last one in1989.
Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb told lawmakers that all but $3 million of the court system’s current annual expenditures of $155.8 million go for salaries and benefits of judges and employees. She says the system has requested $174 million for the next fiscal year’s operations, but Gov. Riley has only recommended level funding in the General Fund Budget.
McCain has double-digit lead over Demos
According to a poll last week by the Mobile Press-Register and the University of South Alabama, Sen. John McCain can have his way with Alabamians in November. He wins by double digits over both Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama.
McCain wins the independent vote here by about 66 percent over either Democrat. As for Republicans, Polling Director Keith Nichols says it “doesn’t really matter who the candidate is.”
The GOP presidential nominee has carried our state in every election since Ronald Reagan ran his first campaign in 1980.
How much could those hotel walls tell?
President Nixon spoke there. Bob Hope stayed in the Presidential Suite. Doris Day was an investor. For a decade-plus The Parliament House Hotel in Birmingham was an Alabama showplace and gathering place.
In 1967 on the way home from Camp Shelby, I was inducted into Sigma Delta Chi (now The Society of Professional Journalists) there. In the mid-1970’s I was there for a judicial conference when two district judges were arrested for soliciting an undercover female police officer. I suspect many of the wealthy and the celebrities who flew into Alabama for quickie-divorces, where housed there on their way by private jet to Hamilton.
Built in 1964, the 11 story, 223-room hotel was the center of Birmingham and Alabama social life for many years. It was imploded last Sunday morning to make room for expansion at UAB. I viewed the photos by Frank Couch of The Birmingham News and a video by a UAB nursing student this past weekend on al.com. It was sad to see it go, but I had a lot of good memories there.
Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent. E-mail him at: bob@montgomeryindependent.com

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