News from the Tennessee Valley State, Local and National news
SUNDAY, MARCH 18, 2007

Smiles, frustration, possible showdown at Alabama Capitol

By M.J. Ellington · (334) 262-1104

MONTGOMERY — Events in the state Capitol complex were unusual, even in a town where nuances sometimes tell a bigger story than the words that come out of officials’ mouths.

Spring break this week

Many Alabama schools and colleges will be on spring break this week. Members of the Legislature will not.

In years when there is a gubernatorial inauguration and the Legislature has an organizational session, the regular session begins in March, not January. Spring break for the Legislature will be the week of April 16.

Hubbert, Riley side by side

It is not often that Gov. Bob Riley and Alabama Education Association chief Paul Hubbert stand side by side in a smiling pose over a victory they both supported. It is also not often that Democratic and Republican leaders in the House strike the same pose for the same reason.

The reason was the signing of the economic incentive bills, including those setting up retiree health care trust funds.

“I want this in the Journal,” Riley said. The AEA Journal goes to thousands of AEA members across the state, and the photographer said Riley is likely to get his wish.

Riley said the event showed that people can find common ground on important issues. And Hubbert and the lawmakers agreed.

Across the street ...

There was little peace in the State House, where Republican lawmakers unhappy with rules and frustrated over committee assignments staged slowdowns.

The Democrats, who hold majorities in both bodies, did their own slowdowns in retaliation and refused to budge. The House did pass a bill requiring government officials to attend ethics training. The Senate fussed. One wag said that maybe disagreement is a good thing if it means they do not pass more laws.

Likely showdown

The governor already said he will veto the Legislature’s expense allowance increase passed two weeks ago. Tuesday, lawmakers convene again on the day the governor promised to veto the raise.

Expect both sides to come armed with ammunition on why their way is the right way. Late last week, lawmakers said they had enough votes to override the governor’s veto.

Early this week, expect to see whether lawmakers override the veto of the bill they passed previously, or make adjustments to the amount of the increase.

Nobody expects lawmakers to end the session without some adjustment to their stipend, their first since the last increase went into effect in 1991.

Two-year colleges

Interim two-year Chancellor Renee Culverhouse will give her first report in her new term to the state Board of Education on Thursday in Montgomery. One agenda item is a report on the system’s discretionary funding awards.

Last month the board ordered a temporary stop to study discretionary funds distributions from the special $57 million fund that the Legislature appropriated in 2006 for the system’s one-time projects.

Catch the action

North Alabamians who want to see a board post-secondary meeting firsthand may want to attend the April 26 meeting scheduled for 9:30 a.m. at Calhoun Community College’s Health Sciences Auditorium, Room 109 of the Health Sciences Center.

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