MONTGOMERY (AP) — Hitting the road Wednesday to promote his legislative agenda, Republican Gov. Robert Bentley said he will seek public employee raises, while Republican Attorney General Luther Strange said he will push for faster appeals in death penalty cases when the Legislature convenes next week.
Bentley was in Birmingham to address hundreds of business and civic leaders during a luncheon. He told reporters that his top goals for the legislative session were expanding job creation and approving fiscally responsible budgets to fund education and state agencies.
Bentley said he will propose a small teacher pay raise and a conditional pay hike for state employees that will depend on revenue being available. He declined to name the specific amount of either, but he said he will reveal details in his State of the State speech to the Legislature on Tuesday night.
The attorney general made stops in Huntsville, Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile to promote his proposals, which were backed by local prosecutors and law enforcement officials at each stop.
One bill would speed up appeals in death penalty cases by having the two rounds of appeals run concurrently rather than consecutively. The first round involves a direct appeal of the conviction. The second round involves the defendant arguing that he didn’t have adequate legal representation at trial. Strange said the average death penalty appeal in Alabama lasts 16 years, but a similar law in Texas has cut it to eight years.
He said the defendant would still have all the appeal rights that exist now.
Montgomery County District Attorney Ellen Brooks, a Democrat, joined the attorney general at his Montgomery stop and recounted how a death penalty case that she prosecuted is still on appeal 25 years after the two victims were killed. “That is not justice for anybody,” she said.
The attorney general’s bill would also expand Alabama’s death penalty law to cover several more types of killings, including slayings that take place on a school campus, or in a day care or child care facility.
Another bill in his package would give law enforcement authorities wiretapping rights — 43 other states already do so — but would limit the wiretaps to homicides, kidnapping, child pornography, human trafficking, sex offenses involving children under 12, and felony drug offenses. The bill does not cover public corruption investigations.
“The broader you make it, the more controversial it becomes in the Legislature,” Strange said.
Both Strange and Bentley will be trying to get the Legislature to approve their proposals at the same time the two officials are campaigning for second terms. The legislative session ends in April; the primary election is June 3.
Looking ahead to that election, Bentley used his Birmingham speech to recount efforts he and Republican leaders in the Legislature have made to reduce state spending, recruit new industry, improve pre-kindergarten education, shore up Medicaid, improve roads in a massive highway program, make public schools more accountable and rein in Alabama’s worst-in-the-nation problem with prescription drug abuse.
“We have done some things in Montgomery that can make the state of Alabama proud because we have become more efficient,” he said.