Moore, Bolt can’t slow GOP agenda

Published 8:33 pm Wednesday, March 2, 2011

MONTGOMERY (AP) — Athletic officials from Auburn and Alabama lacked the political strength Wednesday to stop a rush by the Legislature’s new Republican majority to pass key bills in its campaign platform.

Mal Moore, athletic director at the University of Alabama, and Wayne Bolt, director of football relations at Auburn University, joined other coaches and athletic officials in opposing a bill to do away with some retirement benefits for veteran public employees. They said the benefits encourage good high school coaches to stay in Alabama.Despite their pleas, House and Senate committees approved the GOP-backed bill overwhelmingly and said it would save $45 million annually for the financially troubled state.

The votes came even with the Alabama Education Association, American Federation of Teachers and Alabama State Employees Association lining up on the same side as the Alabama and Auburn officials.

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House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said the GOP had a good day getting legislative committees to approve that bill and nearly every other bill in their campaign platform called the Handshake with Alabama. They said the bills will be scheduled for votes in the House and Senate on Tuesday. The Legislature began its 2011 session on Tuesday. Wednesday was the first day a committee could consider any bill.

Republican legislators got committees to approve bills to:

• prohibit Alabamians from being forced to participate in the federal health care plan.

• require voters to show photo IDs at the polls.

• try to prevent midyear budget cuts to public schools by changing the way the Legislature writes the state education budget.

• ensure that union organization elections by employees use secret ballots.

• protect funding for the State Ethics Commission by requiring a super majority on any vote to cut funding.

• require public officials and their spouses to disclose any contracts they have with government entities.

• increase the tax break that businesses get for supplying health insurance for workers.

Of the bills that passed committees, the biggest fight was over legislation to do away with Alabama’s Deferred Retirement Option Program.