Senate Democratic Caucus Declares 2009 A Success
Senate Pro Tem Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, and Senators Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, and Zeb Little, D-Cullman, said aside from a few bills that were killed by Republican opposition, they accomplished their 2009 agenda.
The senators enumerated initiatives promised and passed, which included:
- Passing an education budget that prevented teacher layoffs
- Expanding the state children's health insurance program (SCHIP) to cover 14,000 more children and 5,000 women with maternity care
- Creating a mortgage guarantee fund to offset losses by investors who hold foreclosed Alabama mortgages to help first time buyers
- Giving state chartered banks or banks with headquarters in Alabama a priority for state government deposits
- Increasing the number of days from 90 to 180 days of protection from foreclosure for the families of military personnel killed on active duty
- Mandating that all loan originators be licensed by the state, pass 20 hours of pre-licensing education, pass a test covering ethics and have no criminal record
- Making mortgage fraud a Class C felony
- Passing a resolution asking Congress to adopt credit card reforms
- Prohibiting sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of an Alabama college or university
- Making it a crime to use a computer or electronic means to solicit a child
- Preventing serial killers, death row inmates and convicted felons from profiting from the writings and art work they create
- Requiring sex offenders to provide an address of where they will live before they are released from prison
- Providing increased protection to corrections officers who might be attacked while on duty.
The caucus leaders said the bills that didn't pass in 2009 -- removing the state sales tax on groceries, expanding unemployment benefits and investing $1 billion into highway construction -- will be back on the agenda for 2010. They said the political pressure of 2010 election cycle will be enough to get the votes they need to pass those bills. There will be three new senators in the chamber in 2010, and the caucus leaders are confident they will be Democrats.
"We lost each of those initiatives by one single vote," said Smitherman. "Next year is an election year, and it will be hard for any of the opposition to be against jobs, working families and tax cuts. I think we can get the votes we need."
The senators said ethics reform is not on their list of agenda items because that's not what the people have been clamouring for, but they do believe it's important.
"You have to prioritize," Smitherman said.
-- posted by Markeshia Ricks