By Budd McLaughlin
ATHENS — It wasn’t quite the controversy-free start to the 2014 legislative session that some had hoped, but Rep. Dan Williams of Athens said he thought the first week went smoothly.
“I thought the speech was excellent,” Williams, a Republican, said of Gov. Robert Bentley’s State of the State Address which marked the kickoff of the session. “He dwelt on job creation which I think the (audience) enjoyed. “
On the expansion of Medicaid, which is opposed by Williams and the governor , Williams said Bentley’s take is “that the state can’t be sure it will have the money to pay for it when the federal money ends (in three years.)
“States that are doing it are on a wing and a prayer.”
However, there was a section of the speech that Williams didn’t favor.
“When he said he wanted a (4 percent) pay raise for state employees, I thought it was better for him not to say that,” he said.
It wasn’t a problem when the governor proposed a 2 percent cost-of-living increase for teachers and support personnel, Williams said.
The 4 percent raise is an “if”, as in, if the state brings in enough revenue to cover it.
“It’s not fair to get people’s hopes up,” Williams said.
Williams, who qualified to run for re-election Wednesday, said a lot of the legislative work is going over and tweaking bills to make sure they don’t have “unintended consequences.”
“You have to watch things,” he said.
Observers said this should be a relatively controversy-free session with legislators wanting to wrap it up by early April in time to return home to campaign. Williams said they will probably be meeting every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to shorten the session. They have 105 calendar days to get in 30 days of meetings.
However, the first day of the session was held up in a harsh debate over a simple resolution about a business in Montgomery.
So, a controversy-free session?
Williams answered, “That’s not possible with this bunch.”
Budd McLaughlin is managing editor of The News Courier