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Hartselle Enquirer

Special session showed good things can happen

By Staff
Bob Ingram, Alabama Scene
MONTGOMERY–In my 50-plus years in the trade I have seen a lot of political writers come and go.
But the stickout of all those members of the Capitol Press Corps as we were once called was Hugh W. Sparrow.
Few of you perhaps even recognize the name, but for 40-plus years Sparrow prowled the halls of the Capitol for the Birmingham News, and always he was looking for the bad news….the misspending, the overspending, the misconduct.
He was a one-man Ethics Commission before anyone ever heard of the Ethics Commission. And I sometimes wonder if his presence on Capitol Hill didn't do more to discourage public officials from wrongdoing than the present-day Ethics Commission.
The most dreaded words a politician, a department head, could hear from their receptionist was that Hugh Sparrow wanted to see them. They knew he wasn't calling on them to do a complimentary story. He didn't write such stories.
I once asked why he never wrote a favorable story about a public official. I remember his answer:
"Young man, when a public official does a good job, that's not news…that is what they are supposed to do."
That is a long way around to say I am going to break Sparrow's rule in this column…I am going to say a kind word about the much-maligned (and justifiably so) Alabama Legislature. They did a good job in the special session just ended. They came to Montgomery…passed the General Fund budget which had to be passed…and went home. And they did it in the constitutionally-mandated minimum of five legislative days.
Yes, they should have passed the budget in the regular session, but I still give them high marks for the business-like manner they conducted the special session.
Time may confirm that the 6 percent pay raise given to state employees will create a financial crisis of major proportions, but if there is one thing no legislature in my lifetime has ever been able to do is say no to a teacher/state employee pay raise on the eve of an election.
King, so youthful in appearance he looks like an Eagle Scout, got more air time on the tube and more ink in the printed press than anybody in his successful effort to win approval of a tough sex offender law.
Thankfully, when the bill passed King was able to remove the monitoring bracelet from his ankle which he had vowed he would wear until the measure became law.
The considerable play King got in the press had to discourage a number of those who are toying with the idea of running against him for the AG office in 2006.
Some of the encouraging signs they noted: 30,000 new jobs created in past 12 months; $8.4 billion in capital investments spent by companies in Alabama from 2002-2004; 50 industrial projects considering Alabama; unemployment rate of 4.4 percent is lower than national average.
Another encouraging sign is that more people are moving into Alabama than moving out. In a national ranking released by United Van Lines, Alabama ranked fifth in the nation in in-bound moves.
Those days are gone forever. Legislation was offered in the special session to include about $195,000 to be used to move three truckloads of Wallace's personal papers and memorabilia from a warehouse in Atlanta to the Department of Archives and History.
The Legislature said no.
Dr. Ed Bridges, director of the Department of Archives and History, say the papers are now stored in a warehouse which is not climate controlled and many of the documents will deteriorate.
Years ago there was talk of constructing a Wallace museum in Montgomery to house the papers of both Goys. George and Lurleen Wallace, but that project was long since discontinued.

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