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Five day sessions sound like a good thing

By By Bob Martin, The Alabama Scene
Last week the Alabama Legislature passed a $6 billion education budget, removed the state income tax on federal stimulus payments, gave small businesses tax relief on health insurance, approved legislation to close loopholes big corporations use to avoid paying taxes to Alabama, okayed a bill to release some terminally ill inmates who are not under the death penalty, and approved the appointment of 12 trustees for state universities.
And all this in five days, a feat that prompted one lobbyist to suggest that someone quickly offer a constitutional amendment to put the boys and girls of the legislature on a five-day leash every session.
The health insurance legislation would allow businesses with less than 25 employees to deduct 150 percent of what they spend on employee health insurance. Their employees making $50,000 or less or who have an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less would get the same deduction.
The tax break will affect the majority of businesses in Alabama. It is expected to cost the state $33 million annually, but the measure closing the loopholes to national corporations will more than offset that amount by generating about $54 million each year. According to revenue officials, the bill exempting stimulus checks from the state income tax will save taxpayers about $57 million…$30 on a $600 stimulus check and $60 on a $1,200 payment to a couple.
Gov. Riley is expected to sign the bills when he returns from a trade mission to South America this week.
Ouch!
This was the core language of a 13-paragraph resolution adopted by the Alabama State University Board of Trustees last Friday stripping the name of Dr. Joe Reed, the powerful head of the Alabama Democratic Conference, second in command at the Alabama Education Association and a trustee at ASU himself…from the university’s basketball arena. The action of the board was carried out that same day.
The board was upset with Reed because he and fellow trustee Thomas Figures of Mobile filed a lawsuit seeking to block a $289,000 severance payment to outgoing ASU President Joe Lee. They argued that a public institution cannot use state funds to pay an individual when no services are rendered. However ASU attorney Kenneth Thomas says that the law does allow public entities to negotiate the termination of contracts and said the trustees, including Reed and Figures directed the board chairman to negotiate Lee’s resignation.
The betting odds around the Capital City are that the Reed name will again be affixed to the Acadome. After all, he did get the funds for construction of the arena, from Gov. George Wallace’s administration, and it has been suggested that came in return for Reed supporting George Jr. for the Public Service Commission.
Windham hasn’t finished her assignment
Last Sunday afternoon Alabama’s and the nation’s storyteller, Kathryn Tucker Windham, turned 90. In Selma they had a birthday bash and a parade for the legendary writer, storyteller, lecturer, radio personality and performer.
They came, some all the way from California, to honor the lady who grew up in Thomasville, where she began writing for her uncle’s newspaper in her pre-teens and later was a writer and editor at the Alabama Journal and The Birmingham News.
Alvin Benn of The Montgomery Advertiser did an excellent article on her in last Sunday’s edition. She told him: “I don’t know what it is that allows me to do what I’ve been doing for so long. There must be something I’m supposed to be doing, but haven’t done it yet. I guess I just haven’t finished my assignment.” Windham’s son, Ben, is the editorial page editor at The Tuscaloosa News.
Appeals Judge Sam Taylor dies
On a sad note, my friend, Judge Sam Taylor died last week. Sam grew up in Mobile, served in the legislature, as a district and circuit judge in Montgomery and on the Court of Criminal Appeals where he was the presiding judge when he retired in 1997. He was 72.
Former Gov. John Patterson, who served on the appellate court with Taylor, called him “a splendid judge and a hard worker.”
Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent. E-mail him at: bob@montgomeryindependent.com

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