By Sen. Cam Ward
The 2014 Session of the Alabama Legislature is now over and what started off as an uneventful session ended as anything but. Every year, not just election years, it is the expressed intent of the leadership in both houses of the Alabama Legislature to “do the people’s work and go home.” And many times, not just election years, we get bogged down in procedural machinations and yes, instances of principled disagreements slowing the process down.
At the beginning of this session, I laid out my priorities as follows: Passing a revision of The Alabama Open Meetings Act, passing Judicial Re-Allocation and passing meaningful energy legislation that would help Alabama’s energy providers and job creators stay open for business.
Of the 30 legislative items I sponsored, most were considered government reform measures. This included bills that freed companies and the State Department of Labor from filing outmoded and unneeded paperwork, reduced the level of EPA regulation of stormwater drainage, protected Alabama citizens from financial fraud, and even set up a “blue ribbon panel” of law enforcement and victim’s advocates on tackling our prison overcrowding problem.
And on the last day of the session, just before we adjourned Sine Die, we were able to pass a Judicial Recusal bill that I sponsored that streamlines the rules for when judges have to step down from overhearing a case. It protects our legal system’s integrity and prevents companies or attorneys from even the perception of purchasing.
As in most years, not every legislative priority I had was a success. We were stymied in our attempts to pass a 2% pay raise for teachers and we were unable to pass a pro-business bill to stop lawsuit lending from which is practice of charging extremely high interest rates on money loaned to accident victims, which in turn prevents the victim from recovering the full value of their judgment and creates a domino effect of higher costs for our courts and legal fees. In the end, despite months of negotiations, we even came up seconds short of passing my Open Meetings Act bill that would have brought more transparency to all levels of government.
I will have the chance to fight for these bills and more another day, and would like to thank you again for the honor of serving you in the Alabama State Senate. I had a successful session and am optimistic about the next four years. I am truly grateful to my family, the wonderful people in my district, and the support staff in the legislature who helped make my service possible.
In 2015, the legislature will have many new fresh faces, ready to bring their agendas and do the work of the people of Alabama. I look forward to working with those new members as well as those who return. It is always a rewarding and challenging experience.