The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

May 12, 2013

As session nears end, reps pleased by progress

By Caleb Odom
For The News Courier

— With the Alabama legislative session set to adjourn May 20, local representatives are pleased with their progress.

One hot topic has been the amount of a pay raise for educators. Legislators settled on two percent.

“The governor had recommended two and a half (percent) and the budget committee in the House had recommended two,” said Rep. Dan Williams, R-Limestone. “The Senate first said they were going to cut it to nothing or one percent but they have come back and it is going to be at two percent.”

Williams said a problem with the resolution is that the pay raise is only for current teachers and doesn’t cover retired teachers or state employees.

For Sen. Bill Holtzclaw, R-Madison, the big factor in the decision was sustainability of the budget.

“You don’t want to give somebody a five percent pay raise this year and it not be sustainable in the budget and you have to then reduce it,” Holtzclaw said. “That to me was not a positive thing. We really tried to find the best means to do that.”

Gov. Bentley signed another issue, the home brew bill, into law on Thursday; now Alabama residents can have their beer and make it too.

“I was very happy with it,” said Sen. Bill Holtzclaw, R-Madison, who helped sponsor the bill.

“We saw an opportunity on Tuesday,” he said. “We got it into position for a vote; we pretty much knew we had the votes.”

Holtzclaw, who feels the home brew bill is long overdue, credits Rep. Mac McCutcheon, R-Capshaw, for being instrumental in cleaning up the bill for a favorable vote.

“A key to me is that the number of people in North Alabama who are supporters of home brew is staggering,” Holtzclaw said.

“In my opinion, the laws on the books were similar to the laws that you hear about (such as) you can’t walk down the street with an ice cream cone in your back pocket. It’s ridiculous.”

One way area representatives feel local residents can stay better informed about the Legislature and how it relates to them is by visiting the Limestone County Legislative Delegation Office, located in Suite E-4 in the College Street Centre across from Athens State University.

The newly opened office serves as a liaison for representatives and citizens.

“It’s a one-stop shop for folks in Limestone County,” Holtzclaw said. “We worked out a wonderful arrangement with Athens State University to make use of an office that they had available.”

The office is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Executive director Anna Russell can be reached at 256-262-9038 or 256-262-9039. The fax number to the office is 256-262-9035. Russell can also be reached via email at ExecutiveDirector@LCLD.us.