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Hartselle Enquirer

Most believe Obama will help economy

By By Bob Martin, The Alabama Scene
Public confidence in the new President to deal with the nation’s most pressing problems is high. About seven-in-10 polled say they believe Barrack Obama will do the right thing when it comes to mending the economy, preventing terrorism, and dealing with Iraq.
Many who were polled by The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press just prior to the inauguration not only see the president-elect as a problem-solver, but as a “uniter” as well. Funny, I thought President Bush had labeled himself as “a uniter, not a divider,” but obviously that self-proclaimed designation has changed since his early years.
According to the Pew poll, conducted Jan. 7-11 among 1,503 adults on cell phones and landlines, Americans are enthusiastic about Obama and broadly approve of his handling of the presidential transition. “Fully 79 percent of Americans – including 59 percent of Republicans – say they have a favorable impression of Obama,” the Pew report states. That is far higher than Bush’s personal favorability shortly before he took office in 2001 (60 percent).
Also, for the first time in several years, there has been a sharp decline in the proportion of Americans who say the country is more politically divided than in the past. Fewer than half (46 percent) now see the United States as more divided, down 20 points from January 2007 (66 percent).
The poll finds the percentage saying that Republicans and Democrats in Washington will work together more to solve problems, rather than bicker and oppose each other, is markedly higher than it was at the start of either of President Bush’s two terms. Currently, 50 percent say the two parties will work together more to solve problems, while 39 percent expect more partisan bickering. Four years ago, just 30 percent said the two parties would work cooperatively while nearly twice as many (59 percent) said they anticipated more partisan bickering. Public expectations for partisan cooperation are now as great as in January 2002, amid the mood of national unity that prevailed after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Certainly this mood of the people gives the new President a bit of breathing room to begin the task of rebuilding our country. He will certainly need as much goodwill and breathing space as he can get.
Judge says governor improperly vetoed budget items
Montgomery Circuit Judge Truman Hobbs has ruled that Governor Riley improperly violated the State Constitution by vetoing multiple items in the state’s General Fund Budget with one swipe of his pen. The ruling by Hobbs upheld the Legislature’s budget plan to protect several social service and health agencies from budget cuts. Riley said he would appeal to the State Supreme Court.
Several legislators said the litigation would not have been necessary if Riley had not overestimated how much revenue the state would receive this fiscal year and had not decided to use a veto in a way no Alabama governor has ever attempted.
When the Legislature passed the General Fund budget for the current fiscal year, it decided to use the Riley’ higher estimates of anticipated revenue rather than the lower estimates by the lawmakers. Then the Legislature put language in the budget to protect six social service and health agencies from cuts if revenue fell short.
Lawmakers provided full appropriations for Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and similar agencies in case the recession hit Alabama hard, but it designed the budget so that prisons, courts, state troopers and other programs would not get 15 percent of their appropriations.
The governor then used what is called a line-item veto to strike the “15 percent” language. The chairmen of the Legislature’s four budget committees sued him. Judge Hobbs said the governor’s veto was unconstitutional because the state constitution requires a line-item veto to set out in full the language being removed, and Riley’s veto didn’t do that.
The following language in our constitution provides for the lie-item veto: Read and decide for yourself: “The governor shall have power to approve or disapprove any item or items of any appropriation bill embracing distinct items, and the part or the parts of the bill approved shall be the law, and the item or items disapproved shall be void, unless repassed according to the rules and limitations prescribed for the passage of bills over the executive veto; and he shall in writing state specifically the item or items he disapproves, setting the same out in full in his message.”
Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent. E-mail him at: bob@montgomeryindependent.com
ge C. Wallace, who died in Florida after a long bout with cancer. The other was Birmingham lawyer Charles Morgan, Jr., 78, who The Birmingham News says “forced the city to face its racial problems.” He died of Alzheimer’s complications in Destin, Fla.
Pat Lindsey was 72, too young for my long time friend to leave us. But, according to Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom Jr. who was with him on the hunting trip, he died in his sleep following a day of hunting, political banter and watching a football game…things he liked to do. He was first elected to the Senate in 1966. I first met him three or four years later in Montgomery while covering the legislature for The Florence Times-Tri Cities Daily, introduced to him by Sen. Stewart O’Bannon Jr. of Florence.
When I wrote a column after Stewart’s death a few years back, the venerable Secretary of the Senate, McDowell Lee, used these words to describe him: “He was a good-un.” I am sure that Dr. Lee would use the same words to describe Pat Lindsey. In fact I know he would.
Lindsey’s death came as he and other members of the Legislature’s budget committee were preparing to start work Monday on next year’s state budgets. After being elected to the Senate in 1966 he served two terms until 1974. He returned in 1990, defeating long-time lawmaker Rick Manley of Demopolis, and was re-elected in 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2006, most of them close contests. Lindsey’s current district in southwest Alabama includes all of Escambia and Washington counties and parts of Baldwin, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Mobile and Monroe counties.
Here are some comments about Pat’s life.
Gov. Bob Riley: “He was a “dedicated public servant and his leadership will be missed.”
State Sen. Roger Bedford of Russellville: “He stopped a lot of bills that looked good on the surface but that would have had bad implications for the people we all serve.”
Senate Majority Leader Zeb Little of Cullman: “He was a senator’s senator, who with intellect, grace and wit, could outplay, outwork and outmaneuver anyone when fighting for the people of Alabama.”
Retired Circuit Judge Hardie Kimbrough of Grove Hill: “If Pat gave you his word he would, as the old saying goes, ‘stay hitched.’”
Lindsey graduated from the University of Alabama Law School. He had a bachelor’s degree in geology from the University of Alabama, and was also an expert on oil and natural gas exploration. Lindsey’s father was an attorney and county solicitor in Choctaw County and his grandfather was the county’s long time probate judge.
Impact on the Senate
The death of Sen. Lindsey, the vacancy created by the election of Sen. Parker Griffith of Huntsville to the U. S. House, and the impending trial of State Sen. E. B. McClain of Jefferson County could have a detrimental effect on the fragile control of the Senate now held by Democrats. McClain is charged in a 50-count federal criminal indictment with taking more than $300,000 in grant money for himself, or about half of the money he helped a Birmingham non-profit group obtain for the area’s poor and disadvantaged students.
A conviction of McClain would create a third Democratic vacancy in the 35-member senate, leaving the Democrats with only a 17-15 advantage. The Republicans have only 12 members, but three dissident Democrats, Sens. Tom Butler of Huntsville, Jimmy Holley of Elba and Jim Prueitt of Talladega, caucus with them and usually vote with the GOP senators on procedural matters.
Democrat Hinton Mitchem won the office of President Pro-Tem, the leader of the Senate, by an 18-17 vote two years ago with the promise that he would relinquish the post to Birmingham Sen. Roger Smitherman this year. But now some Democrats want Mitchem to hold on to the post, fearing Smitherman cannot garner the votes to be elected if Mitchem resigns.
The vacancies make that possibility more tenuous and could create even more attempted “power plays” among Democrats and Republicans posing as Democrats. An interesting session looms.
Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent. E-mail him at: bob@montgomeryindependent.com.

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