News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Priorities: New Statehouse or new classrooms, prisons?

Former Gov. Fob James dubbed the Statehouse where the Legislature meets the "Taj Mahal" after the old Highway Department Building's renovation and renaming in the mid 1980s.

That was his way of saying the building was much too fancy for legislators and was a waste of taxpayers' money.

Now, some 20 years later, the Statehouse may be headed toward a multimillion-dollar makeover because it is shabby and the Legislature is out of office space.

To renovate the Statehouse and the old Department of Public Safety Building across the street from the state Capitol will cost $28 million. That will give the attorney general new digs in the old public safety building and legislators space on the third floor of the Statehouse that now houses the state's chief law enforcement officer.

But don't get too excited that the state may get out for only $28 million, because some legislators want a new building.


For one reason, the plumbing leaks! Another reason is that two wheelchairs have trouble passing in the hallways. Another is that the elevators don't work all of the time.

It is interesting that the Legislature can find bond money to give its members better, more functional quarters where the plumbing doesn't leak, but can't resolve the problem of the overcrowded prison system.

And what about the needs of the public school systems that house students in mobile units?

One way legislators could create more room would be to pare the bureaucracy. It could hire a new maintenance crew, too.

The Statehouse isn't ideal but the question should be where the money is needed the most.

It's not at the Statehouse.

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