By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Recent questions raised by talk radio and a editorial board has bill sponsors miffed.
The bill drawing fire started as HB 269 a bill designed to limit legislative pay sponsored by Representative Mike Ball (R-Huntsville), and carried in the Senate by Senator Phil Williams (R-Rainbow City).
At the time of the bill’s introduction at the Statehouse Rep. Ball said that he had worked with colleagues in the House and Senate with the goal of putting “servant,” back into the idea of public service. He went on to further stress, “In an era when the nation’s political class suffers it lowest popularity in a generation, it is time for us to do the right thing by putting our pay back into the hands of the voters.”
For the bill to become law it must be approved by a vote of the people at the November elections.
Concerning those who were challenging the bill’s intention, Williams recently wrote, “The most important point that was completely overlooked (or simply ignored) by the editorialist is that the Act specifically ensures that the legislature will never have an opportunity to vote on its own pay again…..ever. That’s a salient point and was specifically included to prevent any future repeat of the self-serving pay increase that the previous majority rammed through in 2007.”
In 2007, the democrat controlled legislature voted itself a 61 percent pay raise with annual cost of living increases.
Critics of the legislation have also questioned having the personnel board oversee legislative pay suggesting that there would be a cozy relationship between lawmakers and the board. Again Williams takes aim at those criticisms. “The next point that must be taken into consideration is that the new Act specifically places the legislature under the control of the State Personnel Board. The new majority recognizes that a restoration of the public trust must also include doing away with any ivory tower mentalities that may have infected the halls of the Statehouse in the past. We are State employees, and should not be so bold as to consider ourselves any differently,” he said.
According to the bill’s sponsors, the 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.
Representative Blaine Galliher, (R-Gadsden) said after the bill passed the house and senate that to him the most important part of the bill is that it takes it [Legislative pay raises], out of the hands of the legislature in the future.
After the joint committee meeting that was charged with making sure any changes made would fall within guidelines used for state employees. Galither said, “The people will have the final say on it. 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.”
Williams concluded his recent editorial by saying,”In good faith, and in an effort to restore the public trust, the Republican majority fought hard and won a repeal of the 2007 pay raise and removed the ability for any future legislative body to ever give itself a raise again. We have done what we can, and all we ask now is that the citizens of this State join our efforts by approving the measure at the polls.”