Answers due by December

MONTGOMERY &045; The newly appointed Governor’s Commission On Efficiency, Cnsolidation and Funding kicked off its work last week &045; its assignment &045; to find ways to cut a staggering $290 million from the 2005 General Fund budget.

The commission, co-chaired by Mike Warren, CEO of Energen, and Charles McCrary, president of Alabama Power, is made up of 40 men and women from a variety of constituencies.

The group got nothing but bad news from Gov. Riley as to the financial problems facing the General Fund, but he said the message sent to state government in the Sept. 9 referendum was clear-cut &045; operate government more efficiently.

&uot;Please note that this commission includes no members of the Legislature, no Cabinet members … it is a citizen’s committee,&uot; Riley said.

The 40-member group will be working on a tight timetable … Riley expects recommendations by no later than late December.

You had to know that he could bite his tongue only so long before speaking out on the Ten Commandments controversy.

I speak of Fob James, the only man ever to be elected governor of Alabama as a Democrat and then as a Republican.

A few days ago James joined suspended Chief Justice Roy Moore in calling for Atty. Gen. Bill Pryor to be disqualified from prosecuting Moore on ethics charges.

Ironically, it was James who appointed Pryor to the office of attorney general when incumbent Jeff Sessions stepped down after he was elected to the U.S. Senate.

The former governor said one of the reasons he had appointed Pryor was that he had advocated his willingness to defy court orders.

James said Pryor’s current position is &uot;utterly contrary to the political and legal convictions he expressed to me.&uot;

A Montgomery jury has awarded $50 million to the family of a woman who police say was killed by the Washington D.C. beltway sniper.

Evidence indicates that Claudine Parker was one of the first victims of the two men charged with the sniper killing of more than a dozen people.

The Parker family is not expected to receive any money from the award, but if the two men charged with the crime attempt to profit from it in anyway (i.e., a book, movie, etc.), then the family would have first claim on any money generated.

It won’t save much money, but the Alabama Historical Commission has approved a plan to close the State Capitol on Saturdays … the most

popular day for visitors … and to turn off the lights over the dome at night.

Darkening the Capitol brought an immediate objection from tourism director Lee Sentell, who said his department has spent a considerable amount of money promoting the Capitol as a tourist attraction.

So far the lights are still on.

This development brought to mind the frequently told story of the cost-savings steps taken by Gov. B.M. Miller during the depression in the 1930s.

He turned off the lights at the mansion and used candles to save money.

Speaking of cost-saving measures, a lot of people wonder why it is that the Alabama is so desperately short of state troopers that they are using mannequins in parked trooper cars to deceive drivers to slow down, but there are still enough troopers to have them escorting football coaches to the middle of the field to shake hands with the opposing coach?

I am not sure when the practice began of assigning state troopers to coaches at Alabama and Auburn, but it is a perk that the troopers would die for.

The cost of providing this service is miniscule, but it is lousy public relations.

You just had to know it would not go unnoticed.

I speak of a billboard recently erected on U.S. Highway 231 on the outskirts of Montgomery which is intended to promote the consumption of pork.

In huge letters the sign poses a three-word observation: &uot;Ain’t Pork Grand.&uot;

The only thing missing, quipped one wag, was a picture on the billboard of State Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, the unchallenged &uot;Pork King&uot; of the Alabama Legislature