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Delayed bonuses causing problems

By By Bob Martin, The Alabama Scene
Last year legislators gave education employees a 7 percent pay raise. There wasn’t enough available in the General Fund Budget to give state workers 7 percent, so they gave them 3.5 percent starting last October and put the rest on the state’s credit card to kick in October of 2008.
Now with a deficit of between $10 and $50 million already projected in the $1.85 billion General Fund Budget before lawmakers, that credit card approach could force a significant round of layoffs in state agencies.
Last May, there were approximately 35,000 non-education employees on the state payroll and the average salary was $39,471. When the second half of the 7 percent raise kicks in this October, the average pay would rise to approximately $42,234, an average increase of about $2,800. However, the increase would be a great deal more for many high-paid employees. This pay raise will place the average pay for Alabama state workers very near the top in the Southeast but for many state officials such as David Bronner, the head of the state pension system, the raise alone would be an increase equal to the total annual income of many Alabama households.
Bronner, whose state pay in 2006 was $422,000, would increase to a salary of over $450,000, or nearly a $30,000 pay raise.
Folsom’s gavel ends Senate filibuster
The state Senate and House of Representatives met Tuesday afternoon. Then they will probably meet Thursday and could hold this session’s 30th and last possible meeting day as late as May 19, although some observers say they may meet earlier for the final day.
The Legislature met three days last week and it proved to be productive. The Senate passed 46 general Senate bills, and 21 House bills last Wednesday and Thursday. Tuesday afternoon Lt. Governor Jim Folsom, Jr. ended the 13-day filibuster on a local Macon County bingo bill.
A motion by Senator Zeb Little, D-Cullman, to carry the bill over was gaveled through by Folsom using a voice vote; and the Senate was able to resume conducting business. Recent Senate operating rules have dictated that the Lt. Governor, who is the presiding officer of the Senate, isn’t the powerful position as it once was when Folsom was Lt. Governor from 1986-1992. However, capitol observers say experience from his previous term probably aided him in using the power of the gavel to end the filibuster that was keeping the Senate from considering hundreds of other pieces of legislation.
Many obstacles remain before the Senate can make up for its dilly dallying tactics. All remaining local bills have been ‘contested’ and might not pass because of the controversy surrounding the Macon County bill and “local courtesy” not being acknowledged.
Additionally, Sen. Phil Poole, D-Moundville, is still upset at House Republicans for upholding last year’s veto by Gov. Riley’s of a $1 million appropriation to Poole’s district for road projects. He has kept to his word, refusing to allow any bills to be passed in the Senate that are sponsored by those House members who voted with the Governor. Personality differences and political posturing are still running deep in the Senate, and tensions are running very high. It is going to be a very interesting final two legislative days.
The Senate passed the Alabama Juvenile Justice Act of 2008 sponsored by Rep. Tammy Irons, D-Florence, which reorganizes and clarifies the Juvenile Code. The legislation prohibits the use of juvenile prisons for children who have not committed a crime by adult standards and mandates judges consider optional sentencing. The bill, championed by Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb and the Children First Foundation, now goes to the Governor for his signature.
Senate Bill 296 by Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, passed the Senate last Thursday. The bill codifies language defining the Alabama Underwriting Insurance Association, also known as the ‘Beach Pool’ and helps address the costal insurance crisis in south Alabama.
A much more complicated bill expanding the ‘Beach Pool’ coverage sponsored by Sen. Ben Brooks, R-Mobile, passed the Senate, but ALFA opposed the legislation and successfully lobbied a senator to vote against transmitting the bill to the House, effectively killing the bill.

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