Town hall meeting given at Rooster Hall

Published 9:46 pm Friday, July 31, 2009

State Rep. A.J. McCampbell (D-Demopolis) took time to speak at a town hall meeting on Thursday at Rooster Hall in Demopolis.

He opened in discussing some of the recent actions taken at the state house in Montgomery.

“We’ve had a few anxieties in terms of our budget,” he told those in attendance. “Fortunately for the state of Alabama and for the Legislature, we had the national stimulus package. Had it not been for that stimulus package, the state of Alabama stood to lose 3,000 teachers, and the way it was set up, the newest, the brightest, the youngest teachers were the ones who were going to go first.

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“We’ve been losing teachers especially to Mississippi, to Georgia, Florida and to Tennessee, and the most recent ones I’ve heard about have been going to Kentucky. I think it was very important that we brought about some stability to the minds of the boards of education throughout the state.”

McCampbell opened the floor to questions from the audience. The first question asked about legislating bingo statewide.

“I’m one of those who believe that gambling is going to be here,” McCampbell said. “We are surrounded by it, and we are losing dollars right now to all of the surrounding states. With us losing these dollars anyway, I don’t see any reason we shouldn’t be taxing and regulating it.

“The problem I’m seeing is this: In Walker County, you have about 30-something bingo parlors there. I wouldn’t want to see one on every corner like that. I personally would like to see it all fall under a statewide legislation, where it would be the same throughout the state.”

Another question dealt with the widening of U.S. Highway 43.

“It has not gotten as high on the priority list as I would like to see it,” McCampbell said. “You still have people pushing for (Ala. Highway) 5. You have some people pushing for (Ala. Highway) 17 over on the west side. Highway 43, to me, makes the most sense. We’ve got it (four-laned) all the way up to Thomasville, and if we would just come on through here and connect it to Greene County, which is roughly 50 miles — they’ve started and then stopped on the bypass around Linden, so I don’t know where 43 is right now.”

Another person asked if the grocery tax exemption would come before the Legislature again.

“It came up four or five times in this last session and lost anywhere from four votes down to one vote,” McCampbell said. “It will come up in the next session. Will it pass? Probably not, but it will come up again. The people of the state really want it to happen. The sticking issue was the income tax exemption on the state income tax. No one has come up with any alternatives because here in the state, we can’t print money, so we have to put forth a balanced budget, and state sales tax is a part of helping us to balance the budget. If you take it off of the groceries, we have to make it up somewhere.”

McCampbell was thanked for helping to pass the Silver Alert bill into law. Silver Alert works much like the Amber Alert in that it raises an alert when a senior citizen is missing. The program also uses ankle bracelets to help track down missing seniors through a global positioning system.

At the end of the program, McCampbell was presented a plaque from the Alabama Catfish Industry for his work in passing a bill requiring restaurants to label the origin of its catfish.