Little accomplished during slow week in Legislature - Pell City
by WILL HEATH
Mar 22, 2013 | 4002 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
ST. CLAIR COUNTY — For the second consecutive week, the Alabama state legislature experienced what local legislators called “a slowdown.”

At least one legislator thinks that’s not such a bad thing.

“It’s not bad when things slow down, because less government is better,” said Rep. Randy Wood, R-Anniston. “That’s what’s wrong now: we dictate everything to people. Less government is good. Being in a slowdown mode is a good thing.”

The main bills the House of Representatives focused on during the week of March 18 dealt with aeronautic suppliers, and a bill that protects utility contractors from public harassment. Mostly, however, St. Clair County delegates called this week a slow one.

“I feel like we’re wasting taxpayer money because they’re (Democrats) filibustering everything we do,” said Rep. Dickie Drake, R-Leeds. “I just feel guilty not being able to do the people’s work down here. They’re wasting time and keeping us from doing what we need to get done.”

The biggest headline of the week belonged to Rep. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, who presided over the first public hearing for Medicaid reform legislation. McClendon called it a positive event.

“I think it was well received,” said McClendon. “We did not receive any testimony where folks stood up to say it was a terrible bill and we need to scrap it. We did get a lot of positive comments about ways we might consider making it a better bill and a more encompassing bill.

“The general atmosphere of the meeting was positive, not negative. Everybody recognizes that Medicaid is an ever-increasing expense, and it’s time for somebody to do something about it.”

Legislation McClendon first introduced last week would effectively divide the state’s Medicaid distribution into 6-8 regions, with each regional care organization responsible for paying insurance providers.

“The goal is to move the responsibility away from the state,” McClendon said. “It’s up to each region to provide the provider networks, and to pay the providers. It’s up to them to be frugal with it, and use it wisely.

“Right now, the way we (in the state) work, providers send bills and we pay them, and we hope we allocate enough to come up with our part. The cost escalates every year. Our goal is to flatten that curve out.”

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said his body passed the state’s general fund budget this week. Overall, he says this session has been productive.

“I’m very pleased,” Marsh said. “We’re ahead of schedule on the budgets; the accountability act, along with the efficiency measures.”

Gov. Robert Bentley signed two measures to increase government efficiency this week.

“The governor signed both the public safety initiative and the IT initiative,” Marsh said. “Those two items alone are projected to save the state over $100 million going forward.”

The House still has to pass both the general fund budget and the state’s Education Trust Fund budget, and Rep. Mack Butler, R-Rainbow City, said the budgets are especially urgent.

“As a former school board member, we used to get aggravated every year,” Butler said. “You only have so many days before the end of school you can notify people of layoffs. You always worry that young, bright teacher that’s not tenured might get another job.”

Attempts to reach Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, were not successful on Friday.

Contact Will Heath at wheath@thestclairtimes.com.