Local delegation updates Greater Shelby Chamber

Gambling, ethics reform and dealing with a national economic downturn likely will continue to be the major issues facing Alabama over the next few years, according to members of the Shelby County legislative delegation.

One state senator and four state representatives shared their thoughts on the 2010 legislative session, and provided predictions for the future during a May 26 Greater Shelby County Chamber of Commerce meeting.

Sen. Hank Erwin, R-Montevallo, said he was disappointed the gambling issue took up so much time in the Alabama Senate during this year’s session, but said he was glad the issue was defeated.

“We beat gambling again for the eighth straight year,” Erwin said. “They were close to passing a blank check that would have been beyond the limit of the law.

“I really believe that, before this is all over, there will be some indictments, and some people will go to trial,” Erwin added. “That’s how corrupt Montgomery is now. We’ve got to clean that place up.”

Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin, R-Pelham, said it is important for voters to carefully elect their legislators this year, because those elected will have the power to redraw the state’s legislative district lines.

“It is really important for us to elect responsible people this time, because they will do the reapportionment,” McClurkin said, noting the lines will be redrawn in 2012.

Rep Jimmy Martin, R-Clanton, said although the Alabama Legislature voted down gambling in the state, he believes the issue will continue to be debated in the future.

“I sure am glad it died before it got to the House,” Martin said with a laugh. “But I doubt that gambling is over with. It comes up every year.

“We just have to fight and pray,” he added.

Greg Canfield, R-Vestavia Hills, said the legislature struggled this year to pass the state’s education and general fund budgets, and said he would like to see his rolling revenue budget bill pass.

If passed, the bill would force the state to deposit surplus revenue into a savings account during good economic times. The state could then use the savings during economic recessions, he said.

“We have erratic revenue streams that feed our education budget,” Canfield said, noting the education budget is mostly funded by income and sales taxes. “They are very susceptible to economic changes.

“In good times, we would take that extra money and put it in a lock box and only withdraw it in bad times,” Canfield added. “I am very hopeful that we will see passage of that bill in the next term.”

Rep. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, said ethics reform should be the legislature’s top priority during the next session.

“We have 46 states with ethics commissions, and we are the only one with a commission that doesn’t have subpoena power,” Ward said. “If we don’t deal with ethics reform, nothing else we do will matter.”