What will happen after Sept. 18?Published 11:00pm Thursday, July 26, 2012
As the long hot summer continues, several events have transpired that warrant mentioning. Several of you have asked if the September 18 constitutional referendum on borrowing money from the oil royalty trust fund is not approved will Gov. Bentley call a special session to address the gigantic void in the general fund budget. There will be a tremendous deficit in the budget between what is appropriated and the revenue that will be available. There will be a very short window to resolve the dilemma as the new 2013 fiscal year begins on October 1. Your guess is as good as mine. Gov. Bentley has repeatedly said that he will not call for any new revenue enhancement measures. You can also bet your bottom dollar that the Legislature is not going to raise taxes, especially without the governor requesting such measures. They may just kick the can down the road and hope for the best.
If and when the governor calls a special legislative session it may very well include the much anticipated Coastal Insurance Reform package. The governor has been promising the good folks in Baldwin and Mobile counties a special session to address their special Gulf Coast insurance problems ever since he was running for governor.
Indeed Gov. Bentley has been heading in this direction since his inauguration. Last year he created a commission to address the lack of insurance availability and affordability. His commission, The Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission, has been meeting diligently for over a year and has come up with recommendations to address the problems. Several of their proposals require legislative action. Some of the group’s recommendations will need funding. Congress recently approved between $5.4 billion and $21.1 billion for Alabama and other Gulf Coast states. Authorities have indicated that as much as $200 million will be earmarked for insurance challenges in Alabama. Therefore, the proposals and money are awaiting legislative action, which would best be addressed in a special session.
Speaking of the Gulf Coast, Mobile has landed an economic development coup. The European aircraft manufacturing corporation, Airbus, has announced plans to construct a major aircraft assembly plant in Mobile. It will be a sprawling $600 million factory at the Brookley Field Aeroplex. When the plant reaches full capacity it will employ 1,000 fulltime workers. An additional 2,500 jobs will be created during the two years of construction. Aircraft assembly is scheduled to begin in 2015. Airbus projects the plant will produce between 40 to 50 aircraft per year by 2017.
The recently completed term of the U.S. Supreme Court rendered some landmark and momentous decisions. Their rulings on immigration and the Health Care Reform Act will have significant ramifications throughout the nation and here in Alabama. However, one of their rulings that went almost unnoticed but affects us in a major way was their decision regarding the lengthy war we and Florida have waged against Georgia over water. This epic battle involves three states and has been raging for more than two decades.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Alabama’s and Florida’s appeals of a decision by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals that allows Georgia to tap Lake Lanier for drinking water for Atlanta. This means less water along the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin. Alabama and Florida argued that Congress intended for the north Georgia Lake Lanier reservoir to be only for navigation, flood control and hydropower. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. By the Supreme Court refusing to hear our appeal the 11th Circuit opinion stands. It looks as though we have lost the water war.
Speaking of losing, Alabama is losing a state treasure. Dr. Ed Bridges, our State Archives Director, is retiring on October 1. Ed has been our Department of Archives Director for 30 years. He is an institution and will be very difficult to follow.
Ed Bridges knows more about state history than any person alive. He was perfect for his post. To talk to Ed about Alabama history is like talking to a living, walking and talking encyclopedia. He is truly remarkable. Ed succinctly commented at his retirement announcement, “Nothing defines who we are as Alabamians more than our history.”
Speaking of history, a new book has been penned about Alabama’s most legendary political figure, George Wallace. The new book is written by none other than his son, George Wallace, Jr. The book is titled, “Governor George Wallace, The Man You Never Knew by the Man who Knew Him Best His Son George Wallace, Jr.” It is a great read. There are stories revealed never before told. Some are very poignant told only by his son.
Steve Flowers served 16 years in the state legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.