Legislative session most

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 21, 2000

successful in years


Staff Writer

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Legislators are calling the 2000 Legislative Session one of the most successful in recent years.

And, to make things better for the taxpayers, it’s unlikely Gov. Don Siegelman will call a Special Session since his legislative priorities were met.

"I think it was a very successful session," State Rep. Alan Boothe, D-Troy, said Tuesday morning after only a little sleep, since the session didn’t end until midnight.

"There was a lot of legislation that passed."

Boothe said long-term legislators told him it was one of the "most successful" sessions they’d ever attended.

Sen. Wendell Mitchell, D-Luverene, said "in spite of internal problems" the Legislature was able to accomplish quite a bit during the session.

"We passed a lot of meaningful legislation," Mitchell said. "It’s probably a better track record than I’ve seen in years."

As the last hours ticked away, the Alabama Legislature passed several bills, including giving money for bridge projects for legislators running for re-election in 2002.

Both the Alabama House and Senate voted Monday night on legislation pushed by Gov. Don Siegelman that will give the state authority to sell $200 million in bonds to pay for bridge and road construction projects.

Mack Roberts, director of the Alabama Department of Transportation, plans to repay the 20-year bond issue ­ at a cost of almost $30 million each year ­ with federal dollars provided to the state.

The bond issue is part of the governor’s plan to provide $50 million to replace dangerous county bridges. The measure that will use state oil and gas royalties for such projects will be on the Nov. 7 ballot.

The $4.3 billion education budget trust fund for the 2001 fiscal year was also passed on the last day of the session. It will spend about $205 million more than this year.

Part of the education budget will provide a pay raise averaging four percent for education employees, ranging from one percent for newcomers to 5.5 percent for veteran teachers. It will also increase funding for higher education by $45 million, include $9 million for schools with low test scores, provide $1 million to develop a certification test for teachers and give $1.6 million for Booker T. Washington Magnet School in Montgomery, where First Lady Lori Siegelman is a volunteer in the dance program.

Another piece of legislation passed Monday is intended to fix a $10 million hole in the state operating budget by increasing a tax on banks.

Larger banks will pay the highest rate through the three-tier tax on total deposits.

State Senate Pro Tem Lowell Barron said banks are expected to pay $12 million under the new changes that will take place in November, but have paid less than $2 million.

Passage of the tax was intended to offset a shortfall in projected revenue from a package of business tax measures approved in November. It will replace the franchise tax the U.S. Supreme Court struck down.

Outside of financial matters, the Legislature gave final approval to

legislation to require convicted sex offenders to live or work at least 2,000 feet away from a school or child care operation.

The bill also forbids an offender from living within 1,000 feet of the property where a victim or victim’s family member lives, plus prohibits an offender from living with a minor.

Other bills passed Monday included:

· A $4.3 billion education budget for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1. It will spend about $205 million more than this year’s budget.

· Raising the pensions of retired state employees and school workers by four percent.

· Expansion of the Auburn University board of trustees.

· Raising the cost of a duplicate driver’s license by $10.

· Making extreme cases of cruelty to cats and dogs a felony.

Those bill that died Monday included bill to:

· Change "Alabama" from the state song to the state anthem and replacing it with "Stars Fell on Alabama" and making "My Home’s in Alabama" the state ballad.

· Give dog tracks a $2.5 million tax break.

· Limit the hours a 16-year-old can drive.

· Begin revising the Alabama Constitution by rewriting two articles.

· Require identification to vote.

· Create a state compensation commission to provide raises to elected state officials and the governor’s Cabinet without approval of the Legislature.

· Switch the means of execution from electrocution to lethal injection.

· Expand the state’s hate crimes law to include sexual orientation.