2014 session: The good and not so good
By CAM WARD / Guest Columnist
The 2014 Session of the Alabama Legislature is now over, and what started off as an uneventful session ended as anything but.
At the beginning of this session, I laid out my priorities as follows: Passing a revision of the Alabama Open Meetings Act, passing judicial re-allocation and passing meaningful energy legislation that would help Alabama’s energy providers and job creators stay open for business.
Of the 30 legislative items I sponsored, most were considered government reform measures. This included bills that freed companies and the State Department of Labor from filing outmoded and unneeded paperwork, reduced the level of EPA regulation of stormwater drainage, protected Alabama citizens from financial fraud, and even set up a “blue ribbon panel” of law enforcement and victim’s advocates on tackling our prison over- crowding problem.
And on the last day of the session, just before we adjourned, we were able to pass a judicial recusal bill that I sponsored that streamlines the rules for when judges have to step down from overhearing a case. It protects our legal system’s integrity and prevents companies or attorneys from even the perception of purchasing.
As in most years, not every legislative priority I had was a success. We were stymied in our attempts to pass a 2 percent pay raise for teachers, and we were unable to pass a pro-business bill to stop lawsuit lending, which is a practice of charging extremely high interest rates on money loaned to accident victims, which in turn prevents the victim from recovering the full value of their judgment and creates a domino effect of higher costs for our courts and legal fees.
In the end, despite months of negotiations, we even came up seconds short of passing my Open Meetings Act bill that would have brought more transparency to all levels of government.
I will have the chance to fight for these bills and more another day, and would like to thank you again for the honor of serving you in the Alabama Senate. I had a successful session and am optimistic about the next four years. I am truly grateful to my family, the wonderful people in my district and the support staff in the legislature who helped make my service possible.
Cam Ward is an Alabama state senator from Alabaster.