The Republican supermajority created the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, known as ALEA, in 2013, as a way to operate public safety in a more efficient, cost-effective way according to the legislation’s sponsors.
However, the efficiency and cost savings have not materialized and now HB210 in the House of Representatives is moving to dismantle the sweeping bureaucracy and return public safety operation to its original form.
“They said ALEA would save about $35 million a year. It hasn’t saved anything,” according to State Rep. Phillip Pettus, R-Killen, who is sponsoring legislation to abolish ALEA.
Pettus who served as an Alabama State Trooper for 25 years, rising to the rank of captain before his retirement in 2013 says ALEA has failed.
“It [spending] just keeps going up. And we have fewer troopers on the road now than we did before ALEA was started,” said Pettus. “That’s the big thing. I mean, it’s just – it’s not working.”
As reported by APR‘s Brandon Moseley, in 2018, ALEA received $182,661,377 in total receipts. In the 2019 fiscal year, the Legislature budgeted for ALEA to receive $204,403,572. Hal Taylor, ALEA’s chief, has requested that the agency receive $214,508,787 for the 2020 fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1. That would be a $10,105,215 increase.
Legislation proposed by Pettus would see the various organizations consolidated under ALEA revert to the previous agency structure.
“We can put it back just like it was,” said Pettus.
Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh, R-Anniston, and others championed ALEA during the 2013 regular session.
“This proposal, like many others we’ll take up this session, will fundamentally change the landscape of state government and we know that won’t be easy,” Marsh added. “But we owe it to the taxpayers to move heaven and earth on their behalf to make sure we’re living within our means. We look forward to working with various stakeholders to address any concerns they may have, but the bottom line is we will be moving forward.”
Marsh’s optimism was shared by then Senate Majority Leader Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia, who said at the time, “Senator Marsh has taken the lead in examining all aspects of state government to find ways we can operate more efficiently and save taxpayer money,” Waggoner said. “Our number one responsibility as lawmakers is to ensure we’re living within our means and this proposal is a monumental step in that direction.”
But as Pettus points out, the promises made never happened and according to him, it has also resulted in fewer troopers policing the state roadways.
“There are 200 troopers on patrol right now if you divide that by 67 counties, how many is that in a county? I tell people if you got a ticket by a trooper, you’re very unlucky,” said Pettus.
He notes that currently, troopers are retiring at a faster rate than they are being recruited.
“There’s 100-something in the class that’s fixing to be eligible to retire,” said Pettus. “We could lose 100-something troopers just like that. We don’t have enough – we’re not replacing them – they retire quicker than we can replace them.”
ALEA’s ineffectiveness Pettus believes is mostly to blame for the lack of troopers on the highways and its burdensome top-heavy management has not resulted in the once lauded savings.
HB210 would return the law enforcement functions consolidated within ALEA to their former offices and departments.