Riley Delivers State of State Address

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

Gov. Bob Riley's agenda for the Alabama Legislature would have a big impact on public employees. Riley said he wants state workers and education employees to contribute more toward the cost of their health insurance benefits. He said the only alternative is layoffs.

The governor is also asking the legislature to reduce the number of state holidays from 13 to 11 and to end the automatic longevity bonuses for state employees. He's also calling for an end to the Deferred Retirement Option retirement bonuses. And he's recommending that new public employees have to work 30 years rather than 25 years to receive full retirement benefits.

Highlights of Riley's State of the State Address:

** Increase spending on textbooks, classroom supplies and teacher training by $87 million in the next fiscal year.

** Streamline the process for dismissing bad teachers by abolishing the state Tenure Commission and using arbitration.

** Require city and county school boards to adopt fiscal management policies and have annual audits.

** Eliminate tenure for school administrators.

** Allow schools to hire part-time teachers without providing the benefits that full-time teachers receive.

** Set aside $5 million for bonuses to teachers and schools whose students show marked improvement in reading, writing and math.

** Give the Alabama Commission on Higher Education new power to shut down college programs and allow the governor, rather than the commission, to appoint the executive director.

** Prohibit legislators and political appointees of the governor from serving on university boards of trustees.

** Expand state lobbying laws to require public disclosures by lobbyists who try to influence the governor and state agencies under his control. Currently, lobbyists must report only their activities at the Legislature.

** Require lobbyists to report all expenditures on entertaining public officials and their staffs. Currently only expenditures over $250 a day must be reported to the State Ethics Commission.

** Make $300 million in cuts in the state budgets recommended for the next fiscal year starting Oct. 1. Riley did not outline the cuts.

** Ban "pass-through pork'' in the state budgets and make it a crime for department heads to help legislators hide pork projects in the state budgets.

** Transfer money from some state programs with earmarked taxes to other programs that are short of money.

** Require state workers and education employees to pay more toward the cost of their health insurance or risk layoffs.

** Reduce state employees' holidays from 13 to 11, cap the maximum vacation at four weeks per year, and eliminate automatic annual bonuses of up to $500 for longevity.

** Stop any more state workers or education employees from entering the Deferred Retirement Option Program, which offers retirement bonuses for employees 55 or older with at least 25 years of service.

** Require future public employees to have 30 years of service, rather than 25, to receive full retirement benefits.

** Oppose any attempts to raise broad-based taxes.

** Create the Alabama Space Exploration Initiative, a public-private partnership to make sure Alabama shares in the new space program proposed by President Bush.

** Set term limits for legislators of 12 years, beginning with the next Legislature elected in 2006.

** Limit the transferring of money between political action committees, an action often taken to disguise the source of a controversial campaign contribution to a candidate.

** Require two-thirds of the Legislature rather than half of the Legislature to vote to override the governor's veto.

Democrats in the Alabama Legislature expressed disappointment after hearing Governor Riley's State of the State speech, saying the speech lacked a vision for solving the state's budget problems.

Rep. Ken Guin of Carbon Hill presented the Democrats' response to the governor's speech. He said Democrats agree to the governor's plan to bring more accountability to government, but also want to deal with the state's budget problems.

Sen. Roger Bedford of Russellville says he feels the governor is suggesting cuts in services because he's upset that Alabama voters last year turned down his $1.2 billion plan to raise taxes.

But Republican legislators say Riley is taking the right approach. Rep. David Grimes of Montgomery said it's important for people to regain confidence in government.


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