Riley speaks to Rotary about changing political philosophy

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Messenger Publisher

U.S. Rep. Bob Riley, R-Ala., said would try to avoid politics during his speech to Troy Rotary Club members on Tuesday.

"So I’m here to talk about Washington," he said with a laugh.

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The third-term congressman and gubernatorial candidate said he came with a simple message. "If you think you can’t fundamentally change government, don’t believe it," he said.

Drawing on what he described as personal experience, Riley told Rotarians how a group of freshman lawmakers changed "the philosophy of government" starting in 1996. "The 104th Congress was comprised of a large number of non-traditional politicians," he said. "Sixty to 70 percent of the new lawmakers never held elected office.

"We went up there with a different concept … If you want to change government, don’t worry about how complex or complicated it is. You literally change the philosophy."

Riley cited welfare reform as an example "where we literally changed the philosophy of government." The law’s intent, and it’s wording, is simple, he said. "If you can work, we expect you to get a job and we will give you two years to do it," Riley explained. "People said it would never work. But here in Alabama, welfare cases have dropped from 55,000 to 18,000.

"And it’s not just that you save money, but we have made proud citizens of people that were on the welfare dole."

It happened, he said, "because a different group of people who were not a part of the political process, were in Washington."

And these people, he said, had a different mindset. "Most everyone went in with the idea they wanted to serve for the right reason," he said. "When you have people who are not professional politicians, not only do they have a different mindset, they’re results-driven"

Riley, a longtime advocate of term limits, is not seeking reelection to Congress; instead, he is seeking the Republican nomination for governor. "I think we need term limits," he said. "It’s very sobering to think that some time you’ve got to go back and live with and run a business under the laws that you’ve passed," he said.