Streets are safe again
By By Bob Ingram
MONTGOMERY–As the old saying goes, it is now safe for women and children to return to the streets of Montgomery. The Legislature has gone home.
The 2002 Regular Session followed the script of countless election-year sessions of the past. The question asked by lawmakers on most of the pending bills was the same: Will this help or hurt me in my campaign for re-election? those who are retired were approved. All of them got three per cent raises even though most of the lawmakers who voted for the hikes admitted they weren't sure where the money would come from.
Unless there is a dramatic turnaround in the economy there will either have to be an increase in taxes or a cutback in other services to fund these raises in the future.
The highlight of the session…if it can be called that…was Gov. Don Siegelman's belated effort to seek a convention to re-write Alabama's constitution.
That he waited until the fourth year of his term in office…an election year at that…to seek approval of such a controversial measure raised some doubts about his sincerity.
No matter, the campaign for constitutional reform didn't get off the ground. In fact, the legislation was declared the winner of the tongue-in-cheek "Shroud Award" for being the most hopeless piece of legislation introduced during the session.
There was one striking difference between the 2002 sessions and many that preceded it: The lawmakers didn't wait until the final minutes to pass the two budgets for education and the General Fund.
Historically these appropriation bills are passed in the final minutes of the session. Not so this year.
Both budgets were passed well before sine die adjournment.
On the final day of the session the House gave final approval to a controversial bill which would require clinics to explain alternatives to women who are planning to have an abortion.
Opponents said the legislation was a back door attempt to overturn Roe V. Wade, proponents insisted it would make abortions safer.
While conservatives prevailed on that issue they were not successful in another effort–a bill that would have allowed the display of the Ten
Commandments in public schools died on the final day.
A bottom line assessment of the session: Other than the passage of the fiscally irresponsible budgets, it was, as they say in basketball, a "no-harm-no-foul" session.