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Riley should be held accountable

Last September, the voice of the people was clear.

Alabamians want to feel confident their state government is accountable and answers to the people it serves.

Over two weeks ago, Democratic members of the House and Senate answered the people’s call by bringing forth an aggressive package of accountability proposals to spearhead the 2004 legislative agenda.

The Governor has asked the legislators to recess for a special session to consider accountability measures.

During his State of the State Address on February 3, Governor Riley said, “They [the people of Alabama] want a government that is both responsive to their needs and responsible with their money.

This is the people’s agenda.”

I agree with the Governor that accountability has to be addressed.

Alabamians need to be confident that state government acts as a good steward of public funds; however, calling for a special session to focus on the accountability issues, a topic already agreed upon by both the House and Senate as a central issue, is nothing more than political grandstanding by the Governor and a waste of taxpayer money.

Going into a special session at this juncture would only countermand the concrete action the legislature has already taken.

If accountability was truly an issue of importance to the Governor, one he feels warrants a special session, why did he wait until it was time to conduct the people’s business in the regular session which began last Tuesday?

Why didn’t he call for a special session in October, November, December or January, the months leading up to the Constitutionally set date for this regular session, to address this issue?

Governor Riley’s communications director, Jeff Emerson, has said the Governor believes a special session is the best way to focus attention on making government more accountable.

The fact is, by bringing forth a package of accountability proposals Democratic members of the legislature have not only vowed to make accountability the top priority, they have shown their good faith by prefiling 17 accountability proposals and passing several out of committees during the first week of the regular session.

Clearly our Governor has not been accountable to the people he serves.

His call for a special session is a political ploy which contradicts the clear message of Alabamians who, several years ago, adopted the Budget Isolation Amendment to the state Constitution requiring the legislature to look at budgets first during a regular session before any other business.

The people spoke, and the Governor has not responded.

He has yet to introduce any proposal to the legislature.

Rather than making an “11th hour” effort to discuss accountability, the Governor needs to show he is an accountable leader.

Any accountability and ethics measures he puts before the legislature needs to be started at home in his office.

After campaigning on “restoring honesty and integrity to the Governor’s office,” the Riley Administration has issued 1,023 no-bid contracts during its first year in office.

With or without the interruption of a special session, the regular session must end by May 17.

As your Representative, I assure you we are ready and willing to work with the Governor and consider any proposals that he may have; however, we cannot consider that which hasn’t been proposed.

Now is the time to conduct the people’s business and I vow that I will be the people’s disciple and will work to bring accountability to state government without neglecting the other key issues facing our state.