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Friday, March 17, 2017
Bill would abolish state law enforcement agency By Mary Sell Montgomery Bureau Mar 17, 2017
Blogger Comment: If all ALEA has to work with is
people like Steven Ziaja and John Venegoni, perhaps doing away with ALEA is a
good idea. However, we believe that those two are the bad apples in the
basket. Both Venegoni and Ziaja was part of the Title Mart scheme along
with Sheriff Ana Franklin. All three law enforcement figures knew that
Greg Steenson had gone to prison for his part in an 8.5-million-dollar scheme that
robbed local banks of their money.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency was created by consolidating:
Alabama Department of Homeland Security, Alabama Fusion Center, Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center, Alabama Marine Police, Alabama Department of Public Safety, Alabama Bureau of Investigation, Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board Enforcement, and Office of Prosecution Services’ Computer Forensic Laboratories, as well as portions of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, Alabama Department of Revenue, Alabama Public Service Commission and Alabama Forestry Commission.
MONTGOMERY — A north Alabama lawmaker wants to abolish the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.
“We have fewer troopers on the road now than before,” Rep. Phillip Pettus, R-Greenhill, said Thursday. He said the consolidation of multiple state law enforcement agencies through 2013 legislation was supposed to save millions of dollars a year but hasn’t.
“But I’m not worried about the savings, I just want more troopers on the road,” said Pettus, a former trooper.
When the formation of ALEA was first proposed by lawmakers, supporters said it would save $260 million over 10 years. ALEA officials since have said that came from a study that didn’t mirror the actual ALEA legislation.
Pettus said he’s been working on House Bill 425, filed Thursday, for months, but was waiting for a report from the Legislative Fiscal Office.
“I wanted figures. If it was going to put us in the hole, I wouldn’t do it,” Pettus said. “But there has been little savings.”
According to a memo this month from the Legislative Fiscal Office, ALEA in its first fiscal year had expenditures of $174.4 million. In their last full year before the consolidation, the individual agencies, including the Department of Public Safety, under which troopers previously worked, spent a total of $179 million.
The memo notes that undoing the consolidation would eliminate any potential future savings as eligible personnel retire. It also could increase administrative obligations. There could be potential savings from reopening state employee groups under the Employees’ Retirement System to law enforcement officers hired after Jan. 1, 2015.
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, sponsored the ALEA legislation in 2013.
“It’s not going to happen,” Marsh said Thursday when asked about Pettus’ repeal bill.
“You have a management problem at ALEA,” Marsh said. “But what we did was the correct thing to do.
“I hope they get their act together and do what needs to be done. (ALEA) should be more efficient, and there should be savings and those savings should go toward putting more officers on the road to protect citizens. That’s what should be happening.”
Robyn Bryan, a spokeswoman for ALEA, said three state law enforcement agencies and nine divisions were consolidated Jan. 1, 2015.
“Since that time, Alabama State Troopers have operated under one command with a single vision, policy and governance,” Bryan said. “One of the benefits of consolidation is the immediate ability to allocate state police resources during disasters and other times of need, which allows ALEA to act more swiftly and efficiently to ensure the public’s safety. It also has resulted in improved response times to major events.”
She said leadership is evaluating the financial impact of Pettus’ bill.
“Shared costs, including leased office space and administrative support, as well as the ability to save money by making purchases as a consolidated agency are two areas of concern,” she said.
In January, ALEA chief Stan Stabler told lawmakers the number of troopers on Alabama roads has decreased by about 25 percent since 2009, while traffic fatalities have increased by 30 percent.
He’s asking lawmakers for $14 million in fiscal 2018 to hire 100 troopers, along with a total funding increase of $60 million above this year’s General Fund allocation. This year, it is receiving $44.6 million from the state General Fund.
Stabler recently said he thinks eventually ALEA can be a self-sufficient agency that doesn’t need General Fund support.
Pettus’ bill also would undo a retirement funding change ALEA officials have said is costing the agency millions of dollars a year.
From 2015 to 2016, ALEA had to increase its retirement contribution by $1.55 million. The agency said there will be about $8 million in unexpected contributions in the current fiscal year and more than $11 million in fiscal 2018.