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Capitol Letter
Letters critical of poverty task force

By M.J. Ellington · (334) 262-1104

MONTGOMERY — Poverty, illegal immigration and partisan finger pointing set the tone in the capital city last week.

The first zings went to poverty, with letters in two newspapers criticizing the newly formed House poverty task force.

One letter said Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham, who chairs the committee, would likely direct a group that spent lots of time meeting with no results.

The other questioned whether the group was likely to make plans without consulting the poor.

Only the poor have the personal experience to translate data into workable policy, it said.

Todd said after the meeting that criticism comes with political territory and promised that input from the poor would be part of any decisions the task force makes.

WIC program

Dr. Don Williamson, state health officer, is concerned about what would happen to the state Women, Infants and Children program if Congress and President Bush do not reach agreement on the State Children’s Health Insurance Program insurance program for children.

SCHIP in Alabama helps fund WIC, which provides preventive supplemental nutrition to infants and children up to age 5 and low-income women who are pregnant, breast-feeding or have had a baby within the past six months.

Currently, the program serves more people than in any previous year, and Williamson said the state could face running out of WIC funds before the end of fiscal 2009 if the stalemate in Washington continues.

“It would be a tragedy,” Williamson said.

“The idea of hungry children, hungry pregnant women is something I cannot stand.”

Republican finger pointing

Gov. Bob Riley was about to leave for a trip to China on Monday when he sent out a press release announcing there will be no special session of the Legislature this fall.

He blamed Democrats, particularly those in the Senate, for not supporting a special session on ethics reform, coastal property insurance and property tax re-appraisals.

Senate Majority Leader Zeb Little, D-Cullman, said Riley did not try to build consensus with Democrats.

In the House, hallway chatter was that many Democrats never received any contact about the issues at all.

Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, who sponsored one bill in the 2007 legislative session to ban transfers of funds between political action committees, met with opposition from Senate colleagues.

But so did Rep. Jeff McLaughlin, D-Guntersville, whose bills to ban PAC-to-PAC transfers have passed the House but died in the Senate every year for six straight years.

Also, there apparently never was consensus on whether Alabama needs to be in the coastal insurance debate.

Political experts said calling a special session for that issue would draw much criticism from people in other areas of the state who would question spending state money on a special session for that purpose.

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