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Spectators watch the opening of the special session of the Legislature from the gallery of the House on Monday, at the Statehouse in Montgomery.
AP Photo by Rob Carr
Spectators watch the opening of the special session of the Legislature from the gallery of the House on Monday, at the Statehouse in Montgomery.

Alabama vs. Louisiana for steel mill
Legislature begins special session

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — The competition between Louisiana and Alabama for 2,700 steel-making jobs became more intense Monday, with the Alabama Legislature starting work on a $400 million incentives package and Louisiana's governor courting company officials in Germany.

Gov. Bob Riley summoned the Legislature into special session at 5 p.m. Monday to raise the state's borrowing limit by $400 million so he can pay for incentives for ThyssenKrupp AG and other industries to locate in the state. Louisiana's Legislature had a special session in December to approve a $300 million package.

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco left Sunday for Germany to meet with officials of Duesseldorf-based ThyssenKrupp. Alabama's governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the House made the same trip two weeks ago.

ThyssenKrupp is planning a $2.9 billion steel-making plant that will employ 2,700. The company has narrowed its search to a location between New Orleans and Baton Rouge and another about 25 miles north of Mobile.

The governors and U.S. senators from Florida and Mississippi have signed letters expressing their support for the Alabama site, which is close enough to the two states for residents to commute for jobs.

"If ThyssenKrupp selects Alabama, they will have the united efforts of all three states working with them to make their facility the best in the world," Riley said Monday.

ThyssenKrupp isn't the only industry Alabama is trying to recruit. Riley said Alabama needs to raising its borrowing limit because it is competing for two other major industries that will make decisions this summer.

Georgia and the Montgomery area in Central Alabama are in competition for an engine plant that would employ 500 to 1,000 people. Mississippi and the Muscle Shoals and Tuscumbia area of North Alabama are going after a railroad car plant that would hire 1,500.

Alabama's Republican governor scheduled the special session eight days before the Legislature begins its regular session. If his higher borrowing limit is approved by the Legislature, it will have to go before Alabama voters in a statewide referendum tentatively planned for June.

Passing Riley's legislation will take a minimum of five days.

House budget committee Chairman John Knight, D-Montgomery, is sponsoring Riley's plan and hoping for what he calls "an easy, five-day session."

But some of his fellow party members are complaining that Riley has done a poor job explaining his legislation and there is no need to approve it without more answers.

"If the people think all you are going to do is create a $400 million slush fund for Governor Riley, they will kill it," Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, said Monday.

Knight said Riley's proposal "is pretty simple" and he's hopeful it will pass overwhelmingly because there is a public relations element to the state's recruitment effort.

"As competitive as these things are, it would be good to have a united front," he said.

Riley's proposals will get their first test Tuesday in House and Senate committees and, if all goes according to plan, the House and Senate will vote on them Wednesday.

Legislative calendar

A summary of action in the Alabama Legislature on Monday, the first day of the special session:

House

Met briefly for the introduction of the governorís bills to create industrial incentives and start trust funds to hold money for the health care costs of retired public employees.

Senate

Met briefly for the introduction of the governorís special session legislation.

Started the process of reviewing several appointments the governor made to state boards, including the reappointment of former state Sen. Gerald Dial of Lineville to the Troy University board of trustees.

Agenda

House Education Appropriations Committee meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday in room 617 to consider the governorís trust fund legislation.

House General Fund Appropriations Committee meets at 10 a.m. Tuesday in room 617 to consider the governorís industrial incentives.

Senate Finance and Taxation-Education Committee meets at 10 a.m. Tuesday in room 727 to consider the governorís trust fund legislation.

Senate Finance and Taxation-General Fund Committee meets at 1 p.m. Tuesday in room 727 to consider the governorís industrial incentives.

Senate meets at 3 p.m. Tuesday and House at 4 p.m.

The Associated Pres

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Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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