Friday, March 25, 2011

It seems like every night on the local news, we watch a new story about layoffs and jobs lost across the state. Times are tough, but instead of helping hardworking Alabama families, Republicans are attacking them every day.

Democrats worked to hold things together - and to protect jobs - during the toughest part of the recession. And now, with Republicans in control of the state, things are falling apart and people are suffering.

Instead of focusing on keeping and creating jobs, Republicans are putting politics before people. This part week, Democrats fought to save the DROP program with a solution that would not cost the state one penny. Senate Democrats asked Governor Robert Bentley to issue an Executive Amendment to the DROP bill, a deferred retirement plan that would make it revenue neutral.

The DROP program was created to keep some of our best teachers and public employees in Alabama and to recruit the best teachers to our state. Alabama, like other states, has had a very tough time recruiting teachers of subjects such as Math, Science, English and Special Education.

Prior to DROP, we were losing teachers to other states, including Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Mississippi and Texas. DROP stopped this outflow and helped Alabama move from 49th in education quality to 25th place - a huge gain in a short period of time.

But this week Republicans voted to eliminate the DROP program, placing our tremendous gains in education quality in great jeopardy. Republicans in the Legislature were not interested in even discussing proposals that would save the plan without costing the state a cent. They just wanted to kill it - and kill it fast.

They voted to cut off all debate on the bill after less than an hour. The Republican majority killed the DROP program in a very arbitrary and cruel way, affecting the thousands of good public servants who continued to work or took jobs in Alabama based on the program.

So this week we asked Governor Bentley to save it. Unfortunately, instead he just moved its death date by a few days, so the DROP program is officially dead now. The bill passed will save our state very little money. Problems that were discovered after DROP was implemented could have been fixed - and should have been fixed - without killing the program.

Now, Republicans have set their sights on other programs and jobs to kill. They are pushing through legislation to shorten the school year. They will increase class sizes. They plan to eliminate tenure, which provides job protection, at a time when people are losing their jobs on a daily basis. They will make teachers and state employees pay more for health insurance and take less money home in tough times. Each week Republicans work to pass more tax cuts for businesses while we donít have money for basic school supplies. This is wrong.

Democratsí emphasis remains on saving and creating jobs. That has always been our focus - and jobs remain our number one priority.

This week, Democrats also added an additional half a million dollars to the Ethics Commissionís budget for training and enforcement. We realize that with the new ethics law, we need to be able to educate the public and crack down on violators.

Democrats have fought hard to hold things together - and to keep people working - during the toughest times. With more people being forced out of work due to Republican policies, we will never stop fighting for you. In these tough times, we must stand strong and unite for our children and fight for hardworking Alabama families.

I am pleased to announce two grants awarded by the State that will benefit counties in our District. The first grant is in the amount of $31,850.00, awarded to Lamar, Fayette, Tuscaloosa, Pickens, Greene, Hale, Perry and Sumter Counties to provide overtime funds to law enforcement agencies. Also, $42,470.00 was awarded to Colbert, Cullman, Franklin, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone, Marion, Morgan and Winston Counties to continue implementation of the section 406 safety belt enforcement program.

It was certainly a pleasure to have Governor Bentley attend the Chamber of Commerce dinner Thursday night. It was also a pleasure to see William Thigpin and his lovely wife, Betty there to introduce the Governor. As many of you know, Representative Thigpin is serving a very important position as vice-chairman of the Alabama Beverage Control Division of the State of Alabama.

I also had an opportunity to attend my 30 year class reunion at Cumberland School of Law. It is very hard to imagine that I have been out of law school for 30 years. It was good to see so many classmates from all over Alabama and across the country.

In closing, I would like to note it has been very exciting to see the University of Alabama basketball continue to advance.

I want to thank everyone for your letters, emails and thank you notes about the issues at hand. I appreciate your continued support. Should you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at the addresses and telephone numbers listed below.

Senator Roger H. Bedford

Alabama State House

11 S. Union Street, Suite 738

Montgomery, AL 36130

Phone: 334-242-7862, Fax: 334-242-4736

Russellville Office

PO Box 370

Russellville, AL 35653

Phone: 256-332-6966, Fax: 256-332-6967