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Session will be challenging

Today, the Alabama Legislature will begin the 2004 Regular Session to formally address many of the complex issues facing our state.

The legislature’s annual session to conduct business for the people of Alabama begins Feb. 3.

The regular session is limited to a maximum of 30 legislative or meeting days within a period of 105 calendar days; therefore, this regular session must end by May 17.

Clearly time is of the essence, and we need to aggressively work to see that the people’s needs are met.

In a normal session, 800 to 1,100 bills are introduced in the House covering a multitude of issues and topics.

Of those, a high percentage is local initiatives and 50 or more become laws that have statewide impact.

In an effort to increase the likelihood that their bill is reviewed, many legislators have taken the opportunity to file their proposals early.

More than 100 pieces of legislation, including 17 Democratic accountability bills, have been prefiled.

Bringing accountability to all aspects of state government will be a major focus in the upcoming session.

The Democratic accountability bills feature legislation to ensure that state government acts as a good steward of public funds and proposals to make public budgeting more transparent.

While government accountability is imperative, it is important to remember that making state government more answerable to the people it serves does not resolve the looming budget crisis in our state.

The Governor is required by the State Constitution to deliver to the legislature a proposed balanced budget by the second legislative day, which I expect to be Thursday, February 5.

This will be the first opportunity that we will have to review the Governor’s financial proposals.

We live in a democratic society where government should strive to carry out the will of the people.

The voice of the people drives our government.

Public input in the legislative process is important, as democracy only works with your participation.

We need your input and we need your prayers, as this will be one of the most challenging sessions we have had in decades.

I welcome any questions, comments, concerns or suggestions you may have.

I am generally in Montgomery Tuesday – Thursday when we’re in session and can be reached at 334-242-7600.

For more information on the lawmaking process or to view daily legislative activity, visit www.legislature.state.al.us.