A freshman perspective

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 1, 2004

After serving two years in the Alabama House of Representatives I can tell you that I have learned more in that experience than I could ever learn in a lifetime of civic lessons. Working in the legislative process can be both rewarding and disappointing all at the same time. This legislative session is a classic example of how the process can truly be a roller coaster ride.

For 22 years legislation has been introduced to create a Transportation Commission to oversee how road projects are built in Alabama. This would be a huge boost for Shelby County because we do not currently get our fair share of road dollars.

The bill has never even been passed out of committee before this year. After months of building coalitions and working with all the parties involved, the House of Representatives finally passed the Transportation Commission Bill by a vote of 93-1. You would think with an overwhelming victory like that, it should receive smooth sailing in the state senate.

When the bill was brought before the Senate Banking Committee of all places, however, it was defeated by two state senators who did not want to give up the power they hold. It’s hard to not be disappointed by such a defeat after having so many victories leading up this sad committee vote.

In the end, the lesson is – the legislative process takes a long time and those who continue to fight for the issues they believe in will prevail but they can never give up on a process that takes years to master.

While it is popular to back home to think everything in Montgomery is corrupt and bad, there are, in fact, a few bright spots that have appeared on the horizon. It felt good to be able to co-sponsor and support legislation protecting foster parents, reforming parts of our election process and working to bring more accountability to state government.

Despite the fact that we fell woefully short on accountability, other victories make me realize there is some hope for the future if the determination is in place to make government more responsive to its citizens. Giving up on accountability legislation in state government is not an option that any of us can live with.

In the end, I cannot help but look back with mixed emotions about the legislative process. I voted against the general fund budget to fund all state agencies, not because I do not want government to operate but because I continue to see our state pour more money into a system that is obviously broken. A person cannot help but be proud when you see your own legislative work pass by an overwhelming margin in one chamber of the legislature. But sometimes that pride can be hollow when looking at the entrenched special interests that will do whatever is necessary to stop real reform in Alabama.

I would not trade my legislative experience for anything in the world. The good in serving people has always outweighed the bad. I have a saying that sums up my feelings about the legislature best: &uot;If all the good people just gave up and came home, what would that leave running our state government?&uot;

I look forward to serving the next two years with excitement at the opportunities ahead.

Rep. Cam Ward serves as state representative for District 50 in the Alabama House of Representatives. He and his wife, Julie, and their daughter, Riley, reside in Alabaster