General fund budget passed
by Chris Norwood
TALLADEGA COUNTY — It was a productive week in the Alabama Senate, but not so much in the House, according to members of Talladega County’s legislative delegation.

According to Sen. Jerry Fielding, R-Sylacauga, ”We passed a general fund budget for $1.749 billion budget, which is an increase of about $2 million over last year. The one thing that we are required to do by our state constitution is pass a general fund budget and an education budget. Usually it gets passed on the last day or the last few minutes of the regular session, and sometimes in the past it hasn’t gotten done at all. We passed it during the first third of the session. Now we can take up some other things.”

Fielding also mentioned several bills that were passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which he is a member. “We passed a bill that would increase the penalty for failing to render aid, in cases of hit and run. Right now, that’s a Class C felony, but under this bill, if there is serious injury or death, it would go up to a B felony. We also passed a pretrial diversion bill, which some counties in Alabama already have, although Talladega County doesn’t. That sends first time, non-violent offenders to drug court or some other treatment facility. And we also passed a bill that creates the offense of failure to report a missing child, and various degrees of that, making it a felony if it’s a willful failure.”

Another bill in the Judiciary Committee deals with property being sold to cover back taxes. Under this bill, if the property sells for more than the amount of the taxes owed, the owner can still buy it back within three years without having to pay more.”

The committee also passed a bill allowing for warrantless arrests for trespassing on public school grounds, including colleges and universities.

Fielding also spoke favorably of two local bills that have not been presented yet. One would provide for a referendum on 3.5 mil ad valorem tax to enhance communications and provide a school resource officer for every school in Talladega and Calhoun Counties.

“I met with a group of people about that on Wednesday,” he said. “I’m asking all the councils and school boards to go ahead and pass resolutions asking for this and then let the people vote.”

The other would provide for a vote on allowing Sunday liquor sales in Talladega County. “My position is that the citizens should be allowed to vote for or against this. But for that to happen, you need to get a local bill passed, with the support of the entire local delegation. I don’t think we have that here.”

Both Reps. Ron Johnson, R-Sylacauga, and Steve Hurst, R-Munford, agreed that the House’s primary accomplishment this week was passing a bill limiting liability for the Airbus facility in south Alabama. Most of the rest of the week was taken up with filibusters.

“We passed two bills on Tuesday and two on Thursday,” Johnson said. “The two on Tuesday were no big deal, and the ones Thursday were the Airbus bill and a bill establishing a panel to coordinate communications between all state departments. These are both jobs bills. Everything else was filibuster.”

Johnson said he was not optimistic about either of the local bills, or any local bills, for that matter. A member of the House (who both Johnson and Hurst declined to identify on the record) had filed a procedural obstacle contesting all local bills that would require a 4-1 margin to get around. Johnson said if the house Democrats stay unified, there are not enough members to get around the procedural issue.

Hurst was a little more optimistic. “This is something that people sometimes do out of anger, and remove it after a few days. I consider the person who did this a friend, and I’ll talk to him next week and find out how sincere he is.”

Hurst said he and everyone else in Alabama are obviously concerned about the safety of our children and teachers, but had not seen an outline of the proposed legislation detailed enough for him to comment on.

“After all, our children are our most important commodity,” he said.

Even with the procedural blockade removed, Hurst said he was not in favor of a vote on Sunday liquor sales.

“I’ve told each of the cities that right now is not the time to be looking at this. I know they’re trying to attract restaurants with this, and Anniston is trying get Sunday sales and public consumption without a vote. They already have a law for an entertainment district. But I have a real concern with this, and I am still firm in my belief. I’m no hypocrite, I just don’t think we need an extra day.”

Rep. Barbara Boyd, D-Anniston, could not be reached for comment Friday.

Contact Chris Norwood at

© 2013