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Hartselle Enquirer

Lawmakers hit the road during summer

By Staff
Bob Ingram, Alabama Scene
MONTGOMERY-As the words of an old song say, it's summer time and living is easy. It is also a good time to take trips…oftentimes called junkets when it is politicians who are doing the traveling.
And a lot of Alabama politicos are doing a lot of traveling. Mention has already been made of a host of legislators taking all manner of trips far and wide…Europe, Taiwan, China, Korea…even Greenland. And that doesn't include countless trips within the continental U.S.A.
Now comes the disclosure that Jim Sullivan, the president of the Public Service Commission…the body that regulates utilities…went on an expenses paid hunting trip to a swank lodge and the check was picked up by a law firm which represents Alabama Power Company.
No law was violated here but comes to mind the old expression about the "appearance of evil."
Perhaps more than most journalists, I know a thing or two about the perks that go with state office. During my 31 months as State Finance Director I was on the other side, so to speak.
By law I was required to personally sign all bonds issued by the state and the state sells a lot of bonds. . I made a half-dozen trips to New York for bond signings, and the bank designated as the paying agent for the bonds picked up the tab for those trips.
Each bank sought to outdo the other in entertaining me and my wife, my lawyer and his wife, and State Treasurer Agnes Baggett. We always had a corner suite in the Plaza Hotel…we saw the best shows on Broadway…ate at the finest restaurants for the two or three days needed for me to sign the bonds.
Why this treatment? Because for a bank to be named the paying agent for a multi-million dollar bond issue was like finding a money tree…bankers would give up their first born to get a bond issue.
Can I justify that lifestyle of the rich and famous that I experienced on those trips? Well, I had to go to New York to sign the bonds…my trip cost the taxpayers nothing…and it mattered not at all how royally I was treated I had absolutely no input into determining which bank was named the paying agent.
That's a pretty weak defense, but it is the best I've got.
Did the two decisions by the high court help or hurt Moore's future political career? The general assessment was that the ruling, which prohibits the Ten Commandments from being displayed in a government building will likely re-invigorate his supporters and perhaps push him closer to a race for governor.
Moore simply repeated an earlier line…he has made no decision but continues to pray about it.
It had been hoped that an accelerated parole program launched early in the Riley Administration might stem this tide but it didn't.
The state prisons today now have twice as many inmates as they were built to accommodate.
Most penal authorities agree that the answer is not to build more prisons but a major reform of sentencing laws. Many of the inmates behind bars have committed non-violent crimes and…at least in the eyes of many…should not be in prison,
The only other alternative is a massive prison construction project which the state cannot afford and which would bring out what is called the "NIMBY" opposition…those are the people who support new prisons but "not in my back yard."
On the national scene a move is under way in Congress to propose a constitutional amendment prohibiting the burning of the American Flag; in-state, a giant Confederate Battle Flag was officially dedicated alongside I-65 near Verbena.
The one development of note on the American Flag issue was that U. S. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Birmingham, was the lone member of the Alabama delegation to vote against the prohibition against burning of the flag. His reasoning: The right of dissent, even if the views of the dissenter are offensive to others, is what America is all about.
Perhaps the same argument could be used in the flying of the Confederate Flag near I-65. What is that old quote: I disagree with what you say but I will defend with my life your right to say it.

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