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December 9, 2010     The Tuskegee News
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December 9, 2010
 

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Q OMMENTARY Questions about Special S,e00'sion 'Gov. Bob Riley has Called a Special Session of the Legis- lature to pass ethics reform legislation. The major issues expected to be addressed include pro- hibiting the transfer of cam- paign money between political action committees, which essentially hides the original source of campaign contributions. This practice of PAC to PAC money laun- dering has rendered our campaign finance laws meaning- less. The call will also include giv- ing subpoena power to the Alabama Ethics Commission as well as requiring more stringent disclosure of lobbyists' spending on public officials. The more logical and prudent avenue to address these issues would have been the way that Governor-elect Robert Bentley proposed. Gov. Bentley suggested that the wisest and most cost ef" fective approach would be to tackle these issues in a Special Session sandwiched in between the March Regular Session. It would not cost the already de- pleted General Fund much needed resources because Bent- ley's way would expend no extra money. In addition, the Legislature is not even organized. The legisla- tive makeup has changed dra- matically. There will be a majority of new House and Sen- ate members. This super Republi- can majority is a body that ran on ethics reform and makes the package of bills conducive to pas- sage regardless of whether they are passed in December or March. These new legislators took office immediately upon their election in November. However, even though they are already officially sworn in, they do not meet in an organizational session until Jan- uary 11. Therefore, Riley is call- ing into Special Session a new group of green legislators who have no organization, no new speaker, no committee assign- ments, no desks, no voting ma- Flowers Political Columnist Inside the Statehouse by Steve chines, and most do not even know where the bathroom is yet. They will essentially be milling around without any organization addressing complicated legisla- tion. It is analogous to putting a bunch of first graders in a class- room without a teacher on the first day of school. Special Sessions are designed for emergencies. That is why they are described by our Constitution as extraordinary Special Ses- sions. The last lame duck gover- nor who called a new legislature into Special Session was Frank Dixon in November of 1942. He asked lawmakers to pass emer- gency legiSlation making sure that state employees could enter the. military for World War II without vacating their jobs. Even George Wallace, who had a penchant for calling Special Sessions, would not abuse this authority the way that Riley has chosen. This new legislature will pass the legislation in either De- cember or March. Therefore, the only reason the Session is being held is because Bob Riley wants to grab the glory from Dr. Bentley in a blatant show of political grandstanding at your expense. Our current Ethics Law was passed in the 1970s. These re- form measures were an after- math of the Watergate scandal. George Wallace was governor and he had pretty much dismissed ethics reform as an issue. How- ever, lo and behold one day late in the legislative session Wallace de- cided to get a little good press. He called his legislative leadership team in and said there are only a few more legislative days left in. the session and it's too late for anything to pass, much less an ethics bill, so let's ap- pease the press and throw them a bone by introducing an ethics bill. They not only put in a bill, they used the toughest model act in the country. The bill was introduced in both chambers with an agreement that each body would kill the others hill. They went about with their plan and gleefully passed the strongest ethics law in the coun- try although hardly any of the Senators or House members were for the package. Today both.Bentley andRiley would offer legislation to give subpoena power to the State Ethics Commission and disallow PAC to PAC money laundering. However, they differ on one sig- nificant issue. Riley wants to end double dip- ping and prohibit all state em- ployees from serving in elected offices, especially legislators. Riley is probably more in step with the majority of COP legisla- tors by outlawing elected officials from receiving two government paychecks. His successor, fellow Republican Robert Bentley, will not include disallowing double dipping in his proposals. He says he is opposed to prohibiting anyone from serv- ing in our citizen legislature if elected by the people back home. One thing that will probably not be included in the Riley pack- age is the limiting or exclusion of no-bid contracts by the governor or the elimination of the gover- nor's immediate family from ben- efiting from these contracts. That legislation was sent to him a few years ago and he vetoed it. See you next week. Steve Flowers is Alabama's leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 72 Ala" bama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the state legislature. He may be reached at ww.steve- flowers.us. Ta: cuts should, exl "n( !ed As most of you across East Alabama are aware, right now in Congress, there is a lot of talking going on about the soon to expire Bush tax cuts. There's no final bill yet on the table, but more of a heated debate on who should -- if anyone -- face a. tax increase. I don't have to tell you what our economic climate has been like the past two years in this country. In every county across East Ala- bama, you see signs of a weak economy. Businesses are strug- gling, folks out of work - this painful economy is indeed a hard pill to swallow. That is why it is unconscionable to me that any Member of this Congress could even propose al- lowing any of the tax cuts expire during these tough times. The best the Democratic Lead- ership -- which still controls the House -- has come up with is to allow the tax cuts to continue for those making under $250,000. Yes, that is a lot of money, but let me explain why the middle Report from D.C. by Mike Rogers 00n00r"s00Sn class can also be included in'the bracket making over $250,000. Most of you would agree that in the state of Alabama, small busi- nesses are the backbone and driv- ing force of our local economies. If you own a small business, you may bring in more than $250,000 a year, but out of that $250,000, you have to pay over- head, employees, insurance and so on. That means jobs for everyone else. If the Democratic Leader- ship allows the tax hikes to hap- pen, less of that money will be available to fun the business. That means there could be fewer jobs. Right now, folks need a break to help get back on their feet. A tax increase is not going to help anyone. As far as the argument of extending these tax cuts and causing an increase in our nation's debt, I know the Departments and Agen- cies across Washington, D.C. can cut their budget and stop wasteful spending. Why don't we try to make some cuts in Washington first? It's about taking care of the folks back home while working to lessen waste, fraud and abuse across the board. I hope Congress will listen to their constituents who have loudly spoken and will not raise taxes on anyone. I also would like to recognize the 55th anniversary of the bus boycott in Montgomery this week. We should remember the silent protest of Rosa Parks that was heard around the world. As always, feel free to contact me at www.house.gov/mike- rogers, friend me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter and sub- scribe to my YouTube page. The Tuskegee News, December 9, 2010, Page A-5 U / Give me five! Tuskegee Surely you have heard the saying, "Give me five!" This staSement is normally preceded by an extension of the 00a00,,or's hand to another per- son, for the other per- Comer son toclasp hands with you. The clasp or hit- ting of the hands signi- fies that you agree with the statement or action of the other person. The Christmas pa- rade is indeed going to take place thanks to by Omar each of you who ex- , Neal pressed a willingness to do whatever you Mayor, could to make this Tuskegee year's parade possible. Well, as mayor, I am asking the community to, "Give me five!," meaning: buy a toy for a child 12-years-old or younger (value of at least $5), from a local store to be given away by Santa Claus on Thursday, December 16, at 1:30 p.m., down- town Tuskegee. Please do not wrap the toys because we want to give them away according to the age and gender of the child. This is the season of giv- ing, and during this time we must turn to our youth and collectively demonstrate that we love and appreciate them  not just as indi- viduals but as a community. Community detachment is a big problem not only in our city but throughout the country. Community detachment means that members of the community, particularly the youth, do not feel wanted, appreciated or valued by the community. As a result, they withdraw from the community and often times lash out at the community in anger. We must put our collec- tive arms around our children to save them from the destructive elements that are seek- ing to destroy them and their futures. We must heal our community. This past week I had the dubious responsi- bility to speak at the funeral of Kenneth Ray Williams, a 22-year-old tragically killed the Friday after Thanksgiving. I looked around and witnessed many hurting children and adults alike. I realize that Kenny Ray's murder should not be in vain and as a community we must learn from such a tragedy. During the same time, on the same day, two more young men: Michun Bennie Anderson, 26, a Tuskegee resi- dent and Atlanta native; and Brian Mauryce Carswell, 27, also a Tuskegee resident and At- lanta native were funeralized in Atlanta, Ca. This was an unspeakable tragedy. Each one of their lives had great value and as a human race we all have suffered a terrible loss. I don't believe that just giving away toys will convince our children that we love them; how- ever, it is a start to demonstrate that we can commit to something collectively that focuses on them. We must recommit ourselves as a community to being the best role models that we can be, and spend quality time with our youth. We must encourage young people to be decent and in order if we are to hope for a bet- ter future. I am asking all citizens, businesses, churches and organizations to join in this campaign to give a toy to each child under the age of 12, regardless of their parents' income. This is a gift from the community to our chil- dren. Time is of great essence. Please visit our local stores and buy a toy for a child today. Let this Christmas be the best Christmas that we ha.ve ever had. Please drop all toys off at the Mayor's office, located at the Municipal Complex, 101 Fonville Street, be- fore December 16. If you have any questions, please contact the Mayor's office at (334) 720-0514. Please, "Give me five!" and you will be glad you did. Gas prices on increasing Average retail gasoline prices in Alabama have risen 12.7 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $2.82 a gallon Monday, Decem- ber 7. This compares with the national average that has increased 8.4 cents per gallon in the last week to $2.94 a gallon, according to gaso- line price website AlabamaGasPrices.com. Including the change in gas prices in Alabama during the past week, prices Monday were 31.8 cents per gallon higher than the same day one year ago and are 13.7 cents per gallon higher than a month ago. The national average has increased 9.2 cents per gallon during the last month and stands 30.2 cents per gallon higher than this day one year ago. L