By Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY–On Thursday, a joint committee on conference between the House and Senate put the final touches on House Bill 276 and signed off sending back to the two houses. Late Thursday, the House concurred.
The bill designed to limit legislative pay was sponsored by Representative Mike Ball (R-Huntsville), the bill was torn apart when it reached the Senate Floor on Tuesday. The Senate sponsor Senator Phil Williams (R-Williams) was met with opposition from Senator Roger Bedford (D-Russellville) the man behind the democrat sponsored 61 percent pay increase in 2007.
On Wednesday, during meeting between President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) it was decided to call a committee on conference to settle the differences between the House and the Senate. The appointees were Rep. Ball, Rep. Blaine Galliher (R-Gadsden), Rep. Elaine Beech (D-Chatom), Sen. Williams, Sen. Jerry Fielding (D-Sylacauga) and Senator Scott Beason (R-Gardendale).
The only changes that were made to the bill that came out of the House was to change the month that legislators would receive any adjustments to compensation from December to January and add a reimbursement procedures to Section 3.
Rep Ball said, “I think we have done a good job making sure there are no bugs in it, nothing hidden in it. I think it is a good straight-up constitutional amendment. I think most all of the members will be glad to adopt it and I think the people of Alabama are likely to support it.”
The bill’s intention is to tie legislative pay to median household income and to bring legislative expense approval under the same guidelines set for state employees virtually making legislators employees of the state. It sets specific procedures in place regarding any future pay raises to be out of the legislations hands.
“I think we did exactly what we were sent here for and we have created something that is not only fair to the body but restores the public trust as well. I am anxious to see this thing go to the polls and be voted on by the people,” said Sen. Williams.
Rep. Galliher said that to him the most important part of the bill is that it takes it out of the hands of the legislature in the future.
During the committee meeting, great attention was payed to making sure any changes made would fall within guidelines used for state employees.
“The people will have the final say on it, that this is the way that they want to go. It seems to me that in the past, most of the criticism has come about in the manner in which it was conducted. So, for the first time ever there is actually takes it out of the hands of bringing a resolution up in the middle of the night, so to speak, voice voting it without a recorded vote and sending it to the Governor for signature,” said Rep. Galliher. “This way there is a very transparent process that again the people will have the say on whether they would like this to change the process. I think that they would like to change the process and take it out of the legislature’s hands forever. Set it as an established median income and all other travel we would be treated the same way as all other state employees.”
If the Senate concurs the bill will be on the ballot for vote in November.