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Issues debated in ’06 elections await lawmakers

By M.J. Ellington
mjellington@decaturdaily.com· (334) 262-1104

MONTGOMERY — Expect issues debated in the legislative and gubernatorial elections last year to haunt you through the legislative session that begins in March.

  • Remember Gov. Bob Riley’s campaign Plan 2010? It calls for a $500 million bond issue for school improvements and new construction. Passage will depend on cost of repaying the bonds and the pot tapped to make the payments.
  • Do not underestimate Alabama Education Association Executive Secretary Paul Hubbert. He wants teacher raises. Hubbert’s plan could collide with the bond issue, creating a legislative fight.
  • Don’t forget Riley’s plan to reduce income taxes. It calls for raising the tax threshold for a family of four to $15,000, includes some deductions for families with income up to $100,000 and exempts the first $10,000 of currently taxable income for senior citizens. Opponents may be educators and lawmakers who are fine with the threshold but question affordability of additional cuts.
  • The high cost of judicial elections has incoming Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb questioning partisan elections for appellate judges. The Alabama Bar Association has flirted with the idea in the past.
  • Look for legislation supporting alternative sentencing as prisons fill. Corrections Commissioner Richard Allen wants better prison facilities, more pay for guards and innovative ways to punish nonviolent offenders.
  • During campaigns, Riley and lawmakers decried the PAC-to-PAC transfers that enable donors to secrete campaign contributions. Whether their angst continues when voters aren’t watching is debatable.
  • Sure to be introduced, but with a chance of being lost in the dead-bill stack, is legislation eliminating yearly property tax re-appraisal. The reason? It brings up-front money to state and local governments and to schools. The outcome depends on the amount of cover legislators can fashion for themselves.
  • The state has an eminent domain law on the books, but voters say they want a constitutional amendment to make it harder for governments to seize their property to aid for-profit ventures. The issue hung up the House and Senate in 2006. Opposition could come from city and county lobbies, industrial development and chamber of commerce groups.
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