Reed working on Goat Hill to improve district, state
by W. Brian Hale
May 05, 2013 | 2073 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
District 5 Sen. Greg Reed addresses the House Health Committee on Senate Bill 340 during a legislative session on Tuesday. Daily Mountain Eagle - W. Brian Hale
District 5 Sen. Greg Reed addresses the House Health Committee on Senate Bill 340 during a legislative session on Tuesday. Daily Mountain Eagle - W. Brian Hale
MONTGOMERY — Sen. Greg Reed (R-Jasper) walked purposefully into a joint briefing room already filled to capacity with members of the media, lobbyists and representatives of major health organizations from across the state. Most importantly to Reed are a group of legislators at the heart of the room — the House of Representatives Health Committee — who were present to consider Senate Bill 340, which the first-term senator from District 5 sponsored and was able to pass with overwhelming support from his colleagues.

Reed’s bill is identical to House Bill 454 passed recently while in session, which would switch the Medicaid program from a “fee-for-service” plan to regional care organizations, allowing the state to pay the organizations a fixed amount so they would be responsible for the Medicaid patients’ care. The law would shift the financial risk away from the state, but there will be no cut in services thereby saving the organizations money by better managing patients’ care.

Questions raised by Rep. Elaine Beech of Chatom, Rep. Joe Hubbard of Montgomery and Rep. Ed Henry of Decatur are quickly answered in detail by Reed, assuring each House member that rural areas of the state will be able to form regional care organizations as sufficient as those in more heavily populated areas.

Moments later, the committee votes unanimously to give SB 340 a favorable report — another step towards the ultimate goal of having the legislation placed on the desk of Governor Robert Bentley to be signed into a law.

Though the committee meeting was a major moment of importance for Reed, his day had just begun. The senate had convened 30 minutes prior to the meeting, giving Reed a brief time to speak informally to Committee Chairman and Rep. Jim McClendon of Springville before departing to the senate floor to resume the session.

The senate floor: Bills, battles and brevity

The floor of the Alabama State Senate, much like other legislative theatres across the nation, carry numerous stories of intrigue, personal victories and failures, clashes and comedy as law makers weigh in, debate, and vote upon bills placed before them.

For the casual onlooker, a session of the Senate can be both confusing and tedious — with legislators making grandiose speeches for several moments in attempt to persuade their fellow senators into a certain way of thinking, only to have the vote go completely against everything they had spoken for.

Underneath the fog of the sometimes-obscure process of bill consideration, committee report reviews and calls for motions and resolutions, lies a complex system that each law maker goes through in determining how an action will not only affect the citizens of the district in which they represent, but the state as a whole.

For Reed, consideration of a bill comes in several stages — from not only gathering a firm understanding of the proposed legislation from its sponsor, but also how it would align with his personal principles and the positive or negative effect it would have on the state’s citizens.

“A bill’s sponsor is going to play a large role in my evaluation, as they will have the critical answers to my questions,” Reed said. “Most frequently, I want to know why the sponsor proposed the bill, what the talking points are and what issues in it are most important — key information that helps in my determination. My colleagues come to me when I sponsor a bill with the same questions — it’s a process we all use to help us fully understand what is being brought before us. Then as I begin to make my determination, I look to see if it fits in with my ideals and what we need to be focused on as the legislature, and also if it will be something significant for my district. Obviously, a bill that affects the state as a whole is important, but when I see that this will have a large effect on the citizens of District 5 that I represent, the priority becomes even more pronounced.”

Another factor of consideration for Reed comes from his own personal experience with the matters at hand — not only as a legislator, but as a businessman, father and a citizen.

“I think who you are, what your experiences have been and what you have been exposed to in your life plays a major role into the decisions you make,” Reed said. “For myself and my colleagues, we bring that experience and knowledge to the legislative process. I draw on a lot of my business experience into working legislation with my colleagues — I use my own skills to persuade my fellow senators that a bill will be positive for our state and for their district and mine. There are many times that my own beliefs on an issue — in particular those that deal with a question of morality and ethics — shape how I feel about something that’s brought before me. The same can be said when dealing with issues involving children. As the father of three sons, legislation that affects our children presently and how it will effect children in generations to come is very important to me as a parent. Family, as a whole, can also be a big determining factor into the way I determine whether a law will be beneficial or not. I’ve been a very strong advocate of senior services — in particular, those that allow our senior citizens to live as independently as possible in their own home. Years ago, I had a great-aunt that lived in Sumiton that benefitted from the ‘Meals on Wheels’ program, where she had a certain number of meals every week delivered to her home as part of the service. That program was the highlight of her day and week — she enjoyed seeing the folks who brought her meals, as well getting her own nutritional requirement from the food that was brought that many seniors don’t get. That’s an experience out of my life that allowed me to recognize the importance of an issue similar to that.”

Reed’s day on the floor proved to be an exhaustive one. Early in the afternoon, the senate engaged in deliberation over Senate Bill 93, declaring that “All federal acts, laws, orders, rules or regulations regarding firearms are a violation of the Second Amendment.” The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Paul Sanford of Huntsville, along with several other Senate Republican members, engaged in a series of intense debates with Democratic Sen. Bobby Singleton of Greensboro over the legislation that lasted into the later afternoon hours before being passed 24-6.

Another item on the day’s agenda was the second reading of House Bill 165, sponsored by District 14 Rep. Richard Baughn of Lynn, pertaining to the transportation department, highway projects, construction contract plan changes and approval by the director of transportation up to certain amounts without approval of the governor under certain conditions. Reed took to the speaker’s podium himself to answer questions from Singleton about many of the details of the bill, before calling for final passage of the legislation, which was moved with a unanimous vote of 31 to 0.

Although exchanges between Democrats and Republicans can get heated such as the debate between Sanford and Singleton on SB93, Reed said that there is a great deal of cooperation between the parties on several matters. Reed himself is often seen chatting warmly with Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh or sharing a laugh with Democratic Minority Leader Vivian Figures — camaraderie he greatly enjoys and treasures.

“People often think the Democrats and the Republicans don’t speak or don’t cooperate on any issues and that simply is not the case. Legislators bicker between each other because of ideals — and it happens inside of each party, too. But there is a great deal of respect and a willingness to listen to one another on both sides of the aisle and it’s helped us get many beneficial pieces of legislature passed for the betterment of the state,” Reed said. “I enjoy working with my colleagues and I think it’s important that we all have a friendly relationship with each other as we are dealing with issues that will effect millions of Alabamians. I feel I have a good relationship with all of my fellow senators and built friendships with several of them — men and women who I did not know before I became a legislator — that I hope will continue for a very long time.”

Reed also enjoyed a special moment during the day that he held near and dear to his heart. Between actions in the early evening, Lt. Governor and Senate President Kay Ivey presented a special recognition announcement, congratulating Reed and his wife Mitsi on their 25th wedding anniversary, to the delight and applause of the senators on the floor.

Between sessions: A hard day off the floor

Although the Senate does not convene on Wednesdays, it certainly is not a day off for rest and relaxation for senators.

On a typical Wednesday, Reed attends as many as six committee meetings, including the Senate Health Committee Meeting in which he chairs and the Commerce, Transportation and Utilities and Energy and Natural Resources Committees where he serves as vice chairperson. Additionally, he attends meetings with Sen. Marsh and other leaders and holds talks with organizational representatives throughout the day.

The break between sessions also gives Reed time to focus on issues of importance to him and evaluate his goals for District 5 and the state.

SB 340, with the favorable review from the House Health Committee, will go for a third reading by the House and be voted upon for passage. The bill, which was overwhelmingly supported in the Senate with a 27 to 3 vote, has been a work of Reed’s for over a year and its support is a great source of joy for him.

“It’s self-satisfying to see something that you feel is very good and positive thing for the district you represent and the people of our state to pass as SB 340 has,” Reed said. “To also have the amount of support for the bill from both Democrats and Republicans is at a personal level very pleasing. It shows me that my colleagues in the senate trust me and have worked with me to get something as significant as Medicaid passed — and we’ve been able to do it in a collaborative way that they feel comfortable in supporting. The only way that legislation like this is strongly supported is if you’ve spent an enormous amount of time in trying to listen and be engaging with all of the stakeholders and all of your fellow senators. Just knowing I was able to do that is very rewarding for me, as it touches my ability to serve the people of District 5 and the people of Alabama in the way they should be served.”