Shelby addresses nations issues at meeting

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 31, 2006

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, held a town meeting with residents of Hoover and Shelby County recently.

Speaking at Piccadilly Restaurant on U.S. Highway 31 in Hoover on Saturday, Jan. 21, Shelby touched on many issues and fielded questions from the audience concerning conservative judges, abortion, spending in New Orleans, the insecurity of America&8217;s borders and his take on the president&8217;s decision to intercept messages with regard to terrorism.

Shelby thanked the people of Shelby County, noting that during the 2004 election, he got 85 percent of the votes cast, the highest in the state.

Now in his fourth term in the U.S. Senate, Shelby said he has seen Shelby County grow. He also said he is now 10th out of 55 senators in seniority.

And while Shelby said he supports the president on a lot of issues, &8220;I don&8217;t agree with him on everything,&8221; he said.

The senator did say he agreed totally with the president on dealing with Iraq, &8220;that we cannot cut and run.&8221;

Otherwise, Shelby said, &8220;Our standing in the world will erode. It will go downhill fast.

&8220;This war with terrorism and would-be terrorists is going to go on 50 or 100 years,&8221; he said, pointing to &8220;a religious and ideological divide and a mindset different between the Islamic world and Christian world, make no mistake about that.

&8220;Iraq will never be like Europe,&8221; Shelby said. &8220;We will leave, but we should do our measured steps when we get out there.&8221;

He spoke of Iran trying to get nuclear weapons, said North Korea has nuclear weapons and called Asia a &8220;dangerous situation.&8221;

On the homefront, Shelby said the economy is good.

He pointed to his home state, especially.

Alabama reported 3.5 percent unemployment while the nation reported 4.9 percent, Shelby said.

&8220;Alabama is open for business.&8221;

On the matter of U.S. Supreme Court nominations, Shelby said, &8220;I&8217;m voting for Judge (Sam) Alito. You can count on that. I support him. I support the Republican nominees.

&8220;I hope I live to see a shift in the basic philosophy of the supreme court of the United States.&8221;

Later, when asked about the basic right to abortion, Shelby said, &8220;If I was voting for a legislative act on Roe vs. Wade, I would vote no.&8221;

Shelby also spoke on a variety of other issues facing Alabama and the U.S.

-As to Medicare part B, Shelby said there are a lot of options.

But he said, &8220;I think the government could do better than that.&8221;

-Shelby said with regard to asbestos, &8220;There should be an end to litigation,&8221; pointing to that litigation as the cause of the bankruptcy of a number of private companies.

&8220;We ought to do everything we can to see that justice is done,&8221; he said.

Shelby said a lot of people feel if cases are moved from state to federal court that would solve a lot of the problems of excessive damages, but he warned that one never knows the identity or philosophy of federal judges down the road.

&8220;I don&8217;t think we should destroy out state courts,&8221; he said.

-Regarding the current lobbyist scandal, Shelby said both Democrats and Republicans who break the law must go through due process.

He said of lobbyist Jack Abramoff, &8220;Actually I had never heard of him until he got in trouble.&8221;

He reported that Abramoff had given him $1,000 and he gave it back following the outbreak of the scandal.

&8220;I think you&8217;re going to see a series of legislation dealing with lobbying reform,&8221; Shelby said.

&8220;I&8217;ve been in public life a long time. I don&8217;t need any money. I pay my own way. I&8217;ll continue to pay my own way,&8221; Shelby said.

&8220;I believe we should stop the revolving door of congressmen, senators, cabinet members, other top high ranking government people from going from the hill to agencies to the white house … I&8217;m going to vote for strong legislation.&8221;

But, Shelby said, &8220;If someone can bribe you for a meal, you&8217;re pretty weak.&8221;

-On Hurricane Katrina relief, Shelby said of New Orleans, &8220;I don&8217;t want rebuild areas that are going to be flooded again, do you?&8221;

He also said he hoped there would be an effort to create a Louisiana Authority in connection to a revolving relief fund of $30 billion. Shelby said he wants to make sure the taxpayers are represented there.

&8220;I don&8217;t want to turn my back on anybody,&8221; he said. But Shelby said he wants to make sure the money is spent well.

&8220;I don&8217;t want the mayor of New Orleans, I don&8217;t want the governor of Louisiana, I don&8217;t want the people on the levy boards down there to dispense with that money, do you?&8221;

As to the future of the city of New Orleans, Shelby said he would choose to be careful in the rebuilding process.

&8220;I believe some of those areas are way below flood level and if we rebuild them, we are asking for trouble down the road. The question is &8212; will we continue to build in harm&8217;s way? Will we will continue to put the taxpayer at risk, too?&8221;

He said that sentiment includes Alabama&8217;s own coast and Dauphin Island.

&8220;Do we underwrite everything as a government? I hope not,&8221; Shelby said.

&8220;Our flood insurance program is broken,&8221; he said.

-On another subject, Shelby noted there are an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. and little is being done in Washington D.C. about the problem.

He said 12 million is equal to all the people in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas.

&8220;If you believe our immigration system works, I hate to say you&8217;re wrong,&8221; Shelby said. &8220;We don&8217;t enforce our borders. We don&8217;t know who comes here.

&8220;I know why (immigrants) come here &8212; for a better way of life,&8221; Shelby said. The reality is, however, that if allowed, &8220;three billion people would come to the United States of America. We can&8217;t take them all.&8221;

Shelby made his position clear.

&8220;I don&8217;t want to be part of legislation that looks the other way,&8221; he said.

-On the subject of surveillance, Shelby said there had been abuses by some presidents in the past.

He assured those at the meeting that he regarded constitutional rights as important. However, he said, he thought the current matter would have to litigated in the Supreme Court.

Shelby said President George W. Bush believes he has the power of the U.S. Constitution behind him in approving surveillance for those suspected to be terrorists.

And while Shelby said the Fourth Amendment protects against &8220;unreasonable searches,&8221;

he noted it does not say &8220;all&8221; searches.

Shelby said he did not believe that President Bush and members of the National Security Agency were interested in what happens in his house or the homes of others.

But, he said, if the intercepts were tied

to Hamburg, Germany, a known terrorist cell, or to Afghanistan or to Saudi Arabia or Morocco

(areas where it is believed there is heavy traffic terrorists), &8220;I think the president ought to try hard to intercept them.&8221;

Shelby also said he felt the president has a strong responsibility under the constitution to protect the nation.

-Shelby County District Attorney Robby Owens thanked Shelby for his assistance with the state&8217;s drug program and drug grants.

He said Shelby funded all DAs in the state to the tune of $3 million to assist in prosecuting

cases involving crystal methamphetamines.

During the upcoming year, Shelby County, for instance, will face 2,000 felonies and 4,000 misdemeanors, 50 percent of which will be drug cases.