Local delegation reflects on 2010 session

Local legislators are touting the state’s balanced budgets, education funding and blocking statewide bingo as the biggest achievements during the 2010 Alabama Legislative Session.

The Republican members of the Alabama Senate and House of Representatives who live in Shelby County all agreed their biggest accomplishments this year came in bailing out the Alabama Prepaid Affordable College Tuition program and blocking the proposed gambling bill.

The legislators also said passing the state’s operating and education budgets during a down national economy were also major achievements.

“I was glad to see us pass the two balanced budgets,” said Rep. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, who served his final House term this year. “And I was glad to see us pass the PACT bill.”

“The state had a contract with those 44,000 or so people who still hold PACT policies,” said Rep. Mike Hill, R-Columbiana. “We had to come up with a way to fund those obligations.”

Through the Legislature’s PACT bill, the state will pay out a total of $547.6 million over the next 13 years to keep the program afloat and honor current program contract holders.

The Republican delegation also said blocking a proposed bingo bill was a major accomplishment this year. Ward, Hill and Sen. Hank Erwin, R-Montevallo, said the bill would have been detrimental to the state, even for bingo supporters.

“I’m glad we killed the bingo bill. Even if you were for bingo, you wouldn’t want that bill passed,” Hill said. “It would have built a dynasty for five or six people. It was a ridiculous bill, and I’m glad it died.”

Even though the Shelby County legislators said this year’s session was active, all agreed there were some bills they would have liked to see pass.

“We didn’t get ethics reform, four-year reappraisals, PAC-to-PAC money transfers or illegal immigration reform passed, and I wished we would have,” said Erwin, who served his final Senate session this year. “We really need those, because the stench of corruption that swirled out of the state capitol this year was foul.”

“They all talk about ethics reform, but nobody ever does anything about it,” Hill said. “I don’t think the people in charge are ever going to let anything pass that is going to change the way things have been done for years.”