05 Feb 2013
- Published Date
By House Minority Leader Representative Craig Ford
Since 2010, some people have argued that the Democratic Party is dead in Alabama.
They are wrong.
There are several reasons why Democrats are not only alive, but in good position to take back several seats we have lost.
First, the 2010 and 2012 elections are not a good indicator of what is going to happen in 2014.
In 2010, Republicans outworked Democrats. That year was also a wave election that benefitted Republicans across the country. But looking at how Democrats performed in local elections last year, it seems that wave has ended.
Even with the Republican wave in 2010, Democrat Joe Hubbard defeated an incumbent Republican in Montgomery. And in 2008, Democrat Bobby Bright won one of the most highly contested congressional campaigns in the country, winning a seat in south Alabama that hadn’t voted for a Democrat for Congress since 1963.
The elections from 2012 also tell a different story than what some political pundits in Montgomery would have you believe.
Lucy Baxley had been an outstanding public servant for our state. But last year, Lucy’s health limited her ability to campaign, and made it harder for her to get out and meet voters. It’s difficult to win if you can’t meet the voters.
In the race for Supreme Court Chief Justice, Judge Bob Vance was an excellent candidate who worked very hard during his short campaign. But Judge Vance had a major disadvantage in that he didn’t enter the race until late August after the previous Democratic nominee had been removed from the ballot for violating the judicial cannon of ethics.
Roy Moore had an entire year to campaign, and went into the election with high name recognition. Judge Vance only had about 80 days to raise money and introduce himself to voters statewide. Despite his disadvantages, Judge Vance almost won, and I believe that he would have if he had had one or two more weeks to campaign.
But 2012 also had a lot of good news for Democrats in Alabama. In Jefferson County, Democrats swept Republicans in every county race. In Tuscaloosa County, Democratic Probate Judge Hardy McCollum defeated Republican Ted Sexton, who had been County Sheriff for over 20 years, in a landslide victory where McCollum received 62% of the vote.
With 213 contested elections for county offices in the state, Democrats still won a majority of the elections and defeated 22 incumbent Republicans.
So the lesson from 2010 and 2012 is that it isn’t about the political party; it’s about the candidate. When Democrats get out and talk to voters and tell them where we stand and what we believe, we can win!
But there are more reasons why 2014 will be a better year for Democrats.
First, most voters don’t like that the Republicans have a Supermajority in Montgomery, which gives them enough power to be able to do stop debate and force through any legislation without debate or compromise.
Our government was never meant to be set up where one group of people have total control, and I believe the voters are going to fix that in 2014.
Another reason 2014 is looking better for Democrats is because Republicans are starting to divide internally. Most recently, we saw this when Gov. Bentley, Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey, and Speaker of the House Representative Mike Hubbard all endorsed a challenger in the election for Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party and then lost when Chairman Bill Armistead was re-elected.
Other examples of the Republican split can be seen when Republicans in the legislature continually override the governor executive amendments to their bills, or when the Speaker and former Gov. Bob Riley form their own political action committees to challenge the leadership of the Republican Party and compete with the Party for financial support.
In addition to alienating one another, Republicans have also alienated several groups of voters.
The Republicans have lost support from educators, firefighters, and law enforcement after the Republicans slashed their pay and changed their retirement benefits. Republicans also lost support from many women after Republicans tried to pash the transvaginal ultrasound bill. And most recently, Republicans have failed to support gun owners by refusing to bring up legislation sponsored by Democrats that would protect a gun owners right to keep their firearm stored in their vehicle while they are at work.
All of these things combined work in Democrats favor going into 2014. While the Republicans have alienated large groups of voters and continue to go to war with each other, Democrats have learned the lessons of 2010 and 2012, and we will be ready in 2014. So is the Democratic Party dead in Alabama? Not by a long shot!
04 Feb 2013
- Published Date
Representative Allen Farley
In 2012 the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice alleging evidence of frequent and severe officer-on-inmate sexual violence at Alabama’s Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women. Following this complaint, Alabama Prison Commissioner Kim Thomas requested the U.S. Department of Justice “National Institute of Corrections” conduct a review of facility operations at the Tutwiler Prison for Women and make recommendations to the administration on additional steps that can be taken to reduce inappropriate staff conduct with female offenders and create a safer, healthier environment.
First, let me reaffirm what most of you already know. I am an outspoken Christian who is pro Law Enforcement. My faith assures me that our debts must be paid. And, I believe with all my heart that we truly are “One Nation under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All”. That includes justice for those we have incarcerated for violating our laws. That’s part of what sets us apart from the rest of the world. And we must keep it that way!
I know you’ve heard the old saying “But for the grace of God go I”. Well? Think about it. Our prisons are occupied by all types of offenders. Some are truly evil people, some are addicts, some are suffering from a mental disease, some committed crimes out of desperation, and some are simply good people who made a mistake. I know, it’s scary to think about.
When I read the NIC consultant’s 28 page report I was in disbelief. I read the report for a second time and became enraged. It was like reading about a prison in Russia or China.
Let me try to give you a visual of life at Julia Tutwiler Prison in Wetumpka, Alabama. The facility was built and designed for women offenders in 1942. It was built to house 400. Its current inmate population is approximately 700. Staffing is somewhere around 60% and a large percentage of the prison staff at Tutwiler are male. Except for inside the Mental Health unit, there are no operational cameras at this facility.
Do you have a visual image? That’s the best part. Now let me give you some direct quotes from the Justice Department report dated November 1, 2012:
Page 5: “Prior to this assessment it does not appear that Central office has fully embraced or understands the significance of gender issues.”
Page 6: “It appears there is a culture of certain Captains, Sergeants and Officers who have their own set of rules as it relates to managing the inmate population.”
Page 10: “It appears the standard environment is one of disarray and acceptance of unclean space and therefore does not reinforce physical and/or personal safety of inmates or staff.”
Page 15: “Consultants found a significant presence of staff reluctance to report on the inappropriate actions of fellow employees.”
Page 15: “The ADOC is allowed to polygraph inmates who make allocations, but there are prohibitions in the law, which prevents them from administering polygraph testing to employees. If the inmate is determined to be truthful in their response to the polygraph test, but the employee denies wrongdoing, there is deemed to be not sufficient evidence to bring a finding of guilty.”
Page 15: “Consultants attempted to use the hotline from telephones within the facility. On one occasion the hotline connection failed to work. While on site it was disclosed that there were several other telephones that were out of order.”
Page 18: “As noted, the facility is so short staffed that, more often than not; male staff from other facilities are able to work overtime at Tutwiler. When speaking with them they did not know what the Prison Rape Elimination Act was and report they had never heard of it.”
Note: The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA) is the first United States federal law passed dealing with sexual assault of prisoners. The bill was signed into law on September 4, 2003.
Page 20: “Some of the inmates and support staff indicated they do not feel physically or sexually safe in this facility. Women are forced to shower shoulder to shoulder in full view of an elevated officer’s station, with no privacy dividers. Inmates reported that when women are showering, male staff sits in the elevated officer’s station observing them.”
Page 20: “The women and staff report that Tutwiler is a repressive and intimidating environment. Inmates reported being in fear of retaliation from staff if they reject staff’s sexual advances.”
Page 22: “There were multiple reports from staff and inmates that offenders were placed in segregation without due process simply because they annoyed or irritated someone in the administration.”
Page 26: “The Administration states that often inmates are transferred to the facility from other facilities for medical treatment, but their medical files are not transferred with them.”
Page 26: “Neither medical nor mental health staff truly understands PREA. They expressed that it was over reported because it is many times consensual. They have accepted that they must report it and that is ALL they have to do. They expressed no concern of the actions taken or actions not taken.”
Page 27: “When asked about programs or groups to address sexual victimization the mental health staff reported”, “No there weren’t any because the inmates are manipulative.”
Page 27: “Staff reports the prison is a place of exploitation because the management wants to keep the facility “closed” and contain the “secrets” within the walls.”
My Opinion: Overcrowding, understaffing, and state employee salaries did not cause the evil that has obviously been allowed to manifest itself within the walls of Alabama’s Julia Tutwiler Prison. The absence of character and integrity by the staff and management has provided evil a dark place to dwell.
Psalms 35:6 Let their way be dark and slippery, with the angel of the LORD pursuing them!
God Bless America!!!
23 Jan 2013
- Published Date
By Dr. Henry Mabry
The truth will set you free. It would be preferable for me to never, ever have to endure spending the time and experience the headaches associated with the Teacher Retirement System and our health insurance program, PEEHIP. The people at TRS would never hear a peep from me if: 1) AEA members did not complain; 2) what TRS wanted to do did not blow a hole in the ETF budget; 3) their investments were up to snuff; and 4) there was not a lawsuit because of certain poor investments. However, this job requires me to pay attention as a board member and as your person on point to make sure benefits are healthy and our people do not experience exorbitant out-of-pocket costs – especially when pay does not keep up with those costs.
No attempt to take over TRS Board
Since the December TRS Board meeting, much misinformation has been spread by TRS staff. An accusation has been alleged that an attempt is being made to take control of the TRS Board, and such accusation is false. If such were the case, then concerns regarding the voting of a particular incumbent TRS Board member would have been raised in great fanfare by us prior to the TRS election, but such did not occur. To the contrary, RSA staff has used state and local resources to sway the vote of the TRS election for who they believe are TRS loyalists.
This writer has not worked to take over the Board, and this writer has no interest in micromanaging TRS, as asserted. It has been said that this office wants control over TRS investments. This office has no interest in managing the affairs of TRS, PEEHIP, or the investments associated with either. This office simply wants TRS to do its job and improve investment performance.
Further, regarding PEEHIP, this office simply wants to make sure out-of-pocket costs do not increase for active and retired members over the next year as instructed by the AEA Delegate Assembly.
On my watch, are you going to be informed about the actions of TRS and the Board? Yes. This is called accountability regarding your contributions and tax dollars. Are we going to work to address problems like retirees being moved to Medicare Part D? Yes. Are we going to work to keep copays as low as possible? Yes.
Problems with transfer of Medicare Part D
TRS told retirees there would be no effect from being moved to Medicare Part D, but we understand otherwise. We had to get Board action to tell the TRS staff to support a COLA for both active and retired education personnel because TRS staff told legislative leadership that we do not need to give retirees a COLA.
Protect AEA members’ health and retirement benefits
One of my responsibilities under the policies set forth by the AEA Delegate Assembly is to work toward helping protect AEA members’ benefits. The facts are indisputable. Our members have seen higher health care costs through PEEHIP since 2010. Our members have failed to receive a pay increase in the longest known period since the Great Depression, and our members have actually received a 2.5 percent pay cut – a recommendation by TRS. These facts are unacceptable.
It is my job as one of three members of the TRS Investment Committee to serve in an oversight capacity over TRS investments. We do not make the investments and do not want to do so. TRS staff does this – it is their job and not ours – and we want them to continue doing so. There are many good, dedicated people at TRS. Those in charge just need to concentrate on making good investments instead of being preoccupied with other endeavors.
Quite frankly, TRS needs to quit putting your money into hobbies construed as investments like golf courses that do not make a justifiable amount of money. The real estate portfolio made an average of less than one percent over the past five years. In 2012, TRS returns were good, but, quite frankly, one year of good returns does not make up for years of underperformance.
TRS investment income needs accountability
TRS has a serious problem that needs to be addressed. In the last five years, the state and TRS members contributed $5.4 billion and benefits paid out were $8.1 billion. Investment income should have made up the difference but it did not. TRS actually lost $21.5 million in investment income instead of making up the $2.7 billion shortfall between contributions coming in and benefits going out. Last year, for instance, the state and employees contributed almost $1.1 billion, but costs were $1.9 billion. TRS assets are $2.6 billion lower than just over five years ago, or 12 percent down. This means benefits have been paid with savings for the future. Investments must improve or our members’ retirements are in jeopardy or out-of-pocket and state increases will rise, or both.
If returns do not improve every year as compared to the last decade, then the state and TRS members are going to have to foot the bill more and more and more. Instead of focusing upon building golden temples and “doing deals,” TRS needs to tend to its knitting and make more money instead of building grand monuments and plowing more money into newspapers.
We at AEA, nor those at the Legislature, have the time, inclination, or resources to manage TRS investments. All we can do is try to hold them accountable, and hopefully keep them from putting hundreds of millions of actives’ and retirees’ money in projects that suck money out of TRS like the $625 million rail car plant, the ominous USAir buyout, the dead money golf courses, and the overpriced office buildings in Montgomery. Putting money in these projects, in retrospect, has hurt the safety of the fund and we need to stop the bleeding by not putting billions more in these type projects.
TRS investment at the bottom nationwide
Already, one of every seven dollars is in this money losing category. Even as Rome was burning during the Great Recession, TRS moved forward with sinking another $250 million into the vastly vacant RSA Judicial Building.
The fact of the matter is that TRS is grossly underfunded at around 70 percent. This means that for every dollar needed for actives and retirees to get what they are entitled to receive throughout their retirement years that only 70 cents is covered. Only Mississippi has a worse unfunded liability of our four surrounding states according to the Pew Center for the States.
According to a TRS document distributed to the Board at the December meeting, over the past ten years Alabama’s TRS is at the bottom in the country among state pension funds as far as investment returns – the bottom.
All this being said, this General Custer-style investment performance must improve or all our people will be hurt.
TRS money not blue, yellow, and pink like in Monopoly
The facts point to losses caused by alternative investments such as real estate. Over the past five years, almost $700 million has gone down a rat hole thanks to these “investments.” To put it in perspective, $700 million is more than twice what is spent on school transportation for the whole state or over 12,000 teacher units for a year. Economic development of the state is great and wonderful, but economic development at the expense of active and retired TRS members does not pass muster. It is their money and not to be used for someone’s monopoly game.
TRS is requesting almost $100 million more for next year. And next year they will be requesting another $100 million on top of that amount for the following year and the year after that will be no different. We have no choice but to get such amounts funded. If investment returns had not been so abysmal, then these multiple $100 million infusions of cash into the Retirement Systems could by providing much needed funding for textbooks, supplies, technology, professional development, PEEHIP cost increases, or additional pay every year.
TRS leadership should work for the best member benefits
No, taking over the TRS Board is not the objective. Taking over investments is not the objective. The objective is to get TRS to do right by its members by getting better investment returns and to get PEEHIP working to keep out-of-pocket health care costs down for actives and the typical retiree receiving $1,750 a month.
Through all the jibber jabber it has been implied that the TRS staff has grown assets from $300 million to $19 billion as if this was magic and thanks to investment acumen. Actually, in three decades, Alabama taxpayers have pumped into TRS $10.6 billion. TRS members have contributed $5.7 billion. That is $16.3 billion that has been appropriated by the state and contributed by plan participants.
Today, we have an unfunded liability basically as much as all participants have contributed since the 1970s. In the years 2007-2012, TRS staff lost $5.9 billion, or nearly 30 percent. The state contribution, subsequently, increased a third from $541 million a year to $779 million a year. TRS loses money and this costs public education when the needs are great and not being met with slim resources.
There is always a second side to every story, and here is the other side with facts. Bullying, the spewing of falsehoods and baseless name calling is inappropriate, but the truth will set you free.
30 Jan 2013
- Published Date
Representative Craig Ford, House Minority Leader
As legislators prepare to return to Montgomery next week for the 2013 Legislative Session, one of the biggest issues we will address will be public education.
Last week, Republicans in the state legislature announced their legislative agenda for this year. Their only education proposal was a school flexibility bill that would allow local school systems to seek waivers on state statues, policies, and regulations governing our schools.
At first glance, this legislation seems like a good idea. Give the teachers and school administrators more freedom to manage their classrooms. After all, they know better than the folks in Montgomery how to do their jobs, and what works in one school system might cause more harm than good in another school system.
But there are problems with this proposal. The flexibility bill that the Republicans in Montgomery are proposing has no oversight or appeals process, and there are virtually no limits on what statutes can be waived. This could lead to several problems. For example, local school boards could remove requirements that teachers be certified. This could lead to people who are unqualified or not trained educators getting teaching jobs.
There is also no oversight or appeals process to put a check on the state school board’s decisions to waive a policy or regulation. If parents or school administrators want to challenge the board’s decision, they would have to go to court, which is costly, slow, and would clog up our already backed-up judicial system.
Granting educators more freedom to manage their classrooms is a good idea. But we have to be reasonable in how we go about it and be sure not to allow a school system to get a waiver for a policy or regulation that is there to protect our children and school faculty.
We must also look beyond school flexibility if we are going to improve our children’s academic performance.
We can start by instituting a recruitment and retention program to encourage young people to become teachers and to incentivize the best teachers to stay in our schools. Currently, Alabama does not have any program in place for teacher recruitment and retention.
As a part of the recruitment and retention effort, we need to pass a long-overdue cost-of-living pay increase for teachers and support personnel. Without a pay increase, we may loose some of our best educators to our neighboring states like Mississippi, which offers a better starting salary than Alabama.
We also need to bring the resources of the Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative program (AMSTI) to every school system in the state. The AMSTI program has been proven to improve students’ scores in math and science. Yet this highly successful program is only offered in a limited number of public schools in Alabama. We need to make this program and its resources available to every school system in Alabama so that all of our children can benefit from it.
We also need to invest in our children’s education by increasing teachers’ per diem so that they can buy the classroom supplies they need, and by making sure that every student has access to current technology and updated textbooks.
Our children are Alabama’s future leaders, business owners, and employees. The decisions we make this year will affect an entire generation of Alabamians, and we cannot fail them! We need to invest in our children’s education for their future andours.
22 Jan 2013
- Published Date
By Representative Allen Farley
On March 10, 2010 I retired as the Jefferson County Assistant Sheriff to run for a seat in the Alabama House of Representatives. After chasing bad guys for most of 37 years I felt called to share the knowledge of my life’s work with other Public Servants in Montgomery. Did I fully understand what was ahead? Not even close.
Let me start by saying I am honored and humbled to be a member of the Alabama House of Representative Republican Caucus. I have constantly been in awe at the vast and diverse knowledge of the House Republican members around me. There are judges, lawyers, doctors, medical technicians, business owners, insurance executives, bank executives, sales executives, real estate executives, retired educators, retired law enforcement officers, and a real professional farmer. I’m sure I have left out a few, but you get the idea. They are impressive individuals.
Ephesians 3:8 Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ.
As Muriel and I drive the 100 miles from McCalla to the Alabama Statehouse, we often discussed the reason God has placed individuals with such diverse backgrounds together to legislate laws for Alabamians. (You really didn’t think Mike Hubbard pulled that off all by himself? Who do you think created that “Perfect Storm”?) Why, after 136 years, has this particular group of like-minded conservatives with vastly different backgrounds been assembled in one group around Speaker Mike Hubbard? Was it a coincidence? As a Christian I have learned there are no coincidences. But, the storm that began with the 2010 Alabama state elections has increased its power.
Proverbs 10:25 When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever.
As the 2013 Legislative Session approaches, my colleagues and I are faced with many important tasks aimed at defending our state from an out-of-control federal government. We’ve announced an agenda that will protect Alabama from the overreaching effects of Obamacare, including an act that will protect the religious liberty of business owners to opt out of Obamacare mandates that would require the employer to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives and abortion-inducing agents.
House Republicans understand that many Alabamians cherish their right to safely own a firearm, and that our state Constitution should, as strongly as possible, protect the right of every Alabamian to keep and bear arms. Going into the 2013 session, we are prepared to pass the legislation to help ensure that Alabamian’s second amendment rights remain safeguarded from an overreaching federal government.
House Republicans understand that the rights of Alabamians are under constant threat from an ever-expanding federal government, liberal activists, and entrenched special interests fighting to preserve a dysfunctional status quo. The Republican Caucus’ 2013 agenda is designed to safeguard our state from the overreach of Washington’s liberal elite.
The men and women of the Alabama House Republican Caucus are not ashamed of our conservative position. We stand united by the leadership team guided by Speaker Mike Hubbard. We understand the fight we have in front of us in the 2013 Legislative Session. We also understand that, when we dare Defend Our Rights, we are fighting for our children’s future. (Please visit ALHouseGOP.com/wedaredefend for more information.)
Proverbs 22: 5-6 The wise prevail through great power, and those who have knowledge muster their strength. (6)Surely you need guidance to wage war, and victory is won through many advisers.
God Bless America!!!
30 Jan 2013
- Published Date
I was encouraged by the recent LA Times article http://articles.latimes.com/2013/jan/21/nation/la-na-immigration-20130121 about conservative groups lobbying to change our immigration laws to actually encourage immigration instead of continuing to criminalize and discourage it. It is time to have some common sense discussion on this issue because the endless rhetoric and pointless debates are not only victimizing a group of people struggling for self preservation, its slowing our economy, costing too much taxpayer dollars and adding an additional workload to law enforcement.
While I consider myself a conservative, I disagree with the rhetoric defending our outdated and insanely difficult methods of immigration that were well intentioned but short sighted. Securing our borders and protecting our population from potential terrorists are legitimate concerns, but we have used those excuses to build an system of gaining citizenship that is not only cumbersome, but can be expensive. Throughout history population movement has been caused by the desire to escape situations that threaten ones survival. War, famine, natural disasters and economic pressures drive people to find better locations to settle and provide for their families. America has a history of finding solutions to large populations of people moving to our country.
We, as a largely Christian society, should understand that it is our social responsibility to first extend loving support and then find reasonable solutions to include these people in our communities. Our current system has caused us to commit inhumane acts like separating families and returning people to the hands of criminals intending to murder them. I would like anyone to provide me with a passage in the Bible that justifies victimizing a defenseless people in this manner. Most of whom are our Christian brothers and sisters. Alabama's current law (the most strict in the nation) can have the Pastor or Elders/Deacons of a church arrested for having illegal immigrants attend services or allow them to ride the bus to church. That is a level of ridiculousness that no real Christian should dare to defend.
I get nauseatingly tired of the "exonerating lawbreakers" argument as if the practical solution is to herd 11 million people across a border, intern them in concentration camps or lock them in prisons. This would not be the first time in our history that we changed a Federal Law that turned millions of "lawbreakers" into law abiding citizens overnight. All we have to do is look to prohibition. In one day, bar and restaurant owners, liquor distributors and importers and their customers who were in violation of the law became law abiding citizens. In one day, the government stopped spending millions of dollars on enforcement and started collecting millions in revenue. Yet, we are not talking about young white speakeasy patrons and white business men with immigration law. We are discussing darker skinned people whose culture is different from the majority of immigration opponents and most law makers. In my experiences with the Latino community, what I have found are very conservative devout family people with a strong work ethic and a commitment to God. All the things we value in each other, yet packaged differently by God himself.
By legitimizing this population of people and streamlining our system to gain citizenship we turn millions of decent hard working mostly Christian people into valued tax paying, industrious and productive members of our society. We ease the pressures on law enforcement and free up some of their time to investigate and prevent real crime. We legitimize what is now a non-taxed underground economy and unleash it to become the job and revenue producer our society so badly needs.
I know Alabama was caught in a Catch 22 between the pressures of illegal immigrants using hospitals and schools without paying taxes and the Federal Government's refusal to enforce their laws or to change them. Our state lawmakers were forced to act due to budgetary concerns. All the states in our nation are still struggling with this same situation. It is time for the Federal Government to take action on this issue and resolve the problem. It's time to bring Jesus' teaching of forgiveness and love to the debate. I would be extremely proud of Alabama if our Senators, Congressmen and Congresswomen would lead the debate to reform Immigration Law and allow us to move past this issue. I would hope they do it with the Christian heart that Alabamians pride ourselves.
16 Jan 2013
- Published Date
By Senator Cam Ward
Every New Year presents challenges and opportunities. As a people we invariably take stock of the accomplishments and setbacks of the previous year, and take the time to count the many blessings we have, including living in the greatest state in the greatest nation on God’s green earth.
As legislators, our minds turn to the yearly drama presented to us by the upcoming Regular Session of the Alabama Legislature. As a legislator, I begin my year thinking of how we can help improve the lives of Alabama’s citizens. Can we help people susceptible to fraud and abuse? Can we make our roads and highways safer? Can we make courts more efficient and cost effective? Can we shrink state government and reform or repeal outmoded and outdated business regulations – freeing up capital and putting people to work?
I believe we can. Representative Paul DeMarco, my counterpart in the House Judiciary Committee, and I have already pre-filed a bill to make Elder Abuse a crime in our state. Abuse, neglect and defrauding of our senior citizens is a serious problem, and it deserves it’s own category in our legal canons to let people know we will not stand for that sort of thing in Alabama. I also plan to introduce a bill to crack down on unlicensed drivers – the amount of damage done by, and the amount of money lost by the state because of this problem approaches the ridiculous.
There are also some very systemic changes we need to make in state government. We also need to work to find common sense, conservative ways to reduce the size of The General Fund Budget. Currently, Medicaid and Corrections make up 65% of our state’s non-education spending. At current growth rates and projections these two departments will gobble up our entire budget. That is unsustainable, and I hope we can find the political will to tackle these tough problems.
I plan to continue my work as Chairman of The Senate Energy Committee to find new and creative ways we can encourage innovation in the energy sector in our state. One area of energy efficiency is to reduce the size of our state automobile fleet.
While much of my agenda is pro-active, I want to assure the people that I am also here as a bulwark against bad legislation. I will not allow the dilution of our 2nd Amendment rights through ill-conceived gun control legislation. Public safety is important but piling more laws on top of already laws that are not enforced is not the answer.
The promise of the New Year, and a new legislative session is upon us – I plan to make the most of both in 2013, and I hope you do too!