Hyundai plant now hiring

MONTGOMERY &045; With wages expected to average from $14 to $24 an hour, the prediction is that as many as 60,000 Alabamians may file applications in the coming weeks for the 1,600 workers Hyundai Motor Corp. will be hiring for its new plant near Montgomery.

Full page ads appeared in several daily newspapers on Sunday seeking applications for the jobs. Hyundai officials say the plant, which will cost $1 billion, is scheduled to begin producing Sonata sedans and Sante Fe sports utility vehicles by March 2005.

An Auburn University at Montgomery economist says not only will Hyundai provide a significant number of new jobs, but the wages it pays will impact in another way &045; it will drive wages up in other areas as well.

&uot;(Hyundai) will probably set the wages for this market area,&uot; Keivan Deravi, the AUM economist.

While Hyundai begins to staff its huge facility, at least three other firms which will manufacture parts for the automobiles have announced plans to construct plants near the Hyundai plant &045; one in Opelika, another in Shorter and a third in Luverne.

How much power has the office of lieutenant governor lost?

The answer to that question can be determined by looking at how much money was contributed to the candidates for that office in the 2002 primary and general electons.

Last year, Democratic nominee Lucy Baxley … who won the office … and Republican nominee Bill Armistead … spent a total of $3.3 million in their campaigns. That is a whopping $5.2 million less than what was spent in the 1998 lieutenant governor’s contest between Republican Steve Windom and Democrat DeWayne Freeman.

Obviously, with so much power stripped from the office, there was a dramatic drop in interest in the race by the various special interest groups.

Instead these groups poured record amounts into the governor’s race (where a record of more than $29 million was spent) and in legislative races.

Not too many years ago, there was a rule of thumb that a competitive race for the State House could be run for $15,000 and a State Senate race could be waged for $25,000.

Last year State Rep. Mike Millican, D-Hamilton, spent $219,000 to win re-election and State Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, spent an incredible $731,000 in his successful bid for re-election.

Two other state senate candidates spent more than $500,000 in their campaigns.

Rep. Jim Barton, R-Mobile, says he will introduce a proposed constitutional amendment to repeal the present provision which prohibits anyone 70 or older being appointed or elected to serve as a judge in Alabama.

The measure is viewed by some as a &uot;relief bill&uot; of sorts for Circuit Judge Bill McDermott of Mobile, who is 69 and will be prohibited from seeking re-election in 2006.

Presently serving his first term, Judge McDermott no doubt would like to serve long enough on the bench to qualify for judicial retirement, a plan so generous that it has been dubbed &uot;juicy-dicial retirement&uot; by some critics.

The 70-year-old rule came into play a few years ago when then Chief Justice Perry Hooper Sr. had to step down after one term. He had a bill introduced at that time to amend the law but it got nowhere.

The odds are that the Barton proposal will meet the same fate.

Gov. and Mrs. Bob Riley have apparently found a church home in Montgomery.

They have attended the huge Frazer United Methodist Church on several occasions since moving into the Governor’s Mansion.

In fact, a week ago Gov. Riley taught a Sunday School class at Frazer … a so-called Super-Church with thousands of members … and also was called on to pray during the morning worship service.

Dr. John Ed Mathison, pastor of Frazer, who doesn’t lack for a sense of humor, couldn’t resist poking a little fun at Gov. Riley recently. He said he was standing next to him at the Inauguration Prayer Breakfast last month when the crowd sang a hymn.

Quipped the minister: &uot;After listening to him sing I can assure our Minister of Music that the governor will not qualify for a place in our choir.&uot;