Legislative session a bust

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 6, 2004

There is no other way to put it, the most recent session of the Alabama Legislature was a bust.

When the session began the buzzword was &uot;accountability,&uot; and when it ended the only thing that was being discussed was taxes and gambling.

What happened to the all reform proposals that were introduced at the beginning of the session? The answer is simple – those who would have been the most adversely affected by those reforms killed them.

Legislative reforms including a ban on PAC-to-PAC transfers, a complete overhaul of the Department of Transportation, reducing the size of government, stronger ethics laws and a general restriction on how state government spends money all saw a painful death.

These reforms among many others introduced could have helped restored some of the confidence lost in Alabama’s state government. Instead, legislative powerbrokers and special interest groups chose individual self-interest over the good of the entire state.

One example of reform legislation that was defeated due to the fear of more accountability in state government was the effort to strengthen the Sunshine Law.

In Alabama, the Sunshine Law gives people access to meetings and the decision-making process of our government bodies.

As a co-sponsor of this legislation, I cannot think of better accountability than more light on our government’s activities.

Who can be against making our governing bodies more open and accessible to the public?

Apparently several associations and powerful legislators are, because this measure was not even allowed to pass one house of the legislature. When legislation that is designed to give the people more insight into their government is defeated for the sake of promoting the betterment of an individual association, then we have let the people of Alabama down.

As the session winds down all of the major discussion revolves around tax increases and gambling.

I cannot think of two worse ideas right now.

Legislative leaders are offering a solution that has been offered time and time again – more money from taxes and gambling with no reform of the system we are pouring money in to or consideration of the potential problems it could cause our state.

This tired way of running our state government cannot continue. We must say no to new revenue until serious reforms of the system actually take place.

If we do not hold our elected officials responsible for more accountability and reform, then we will continue to have legislative sessions that are a bust.

Cam Ward serves as a state representative for Shelby County. He and his family reside in Alabaster.