Working hard in the House
by W. BRIAN HALE
May 19, 2013 | 2165 views | 0 0 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rep. Richard Baugh sits next to Rep. April Weaver during a recent committee meeting in the House. – Photo by: W. Brian Hale.
Rep. Richard Baugh sits next to Rep. April Weaver during a recent committee meeting in the House. – Photo by: W. Brian Hale.
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MONTGOMERY — Although the Alabama House of Representatives has convened the 2013 Regular Session, its legislative body still has a full slate of committee meetings and appointments with members of the Senate and other state officials before the session officially concludes.

District 14 Rep. Richard Baughn (R Lynn) is a member of three house committees: Transportation, Utilities and Infrastructure; Commerce and Small Business and the Tuscaloosa County Legislation. With the house already convened, matters presented before the committees will, in most cases, have to wait until the next legislative session before they are addressed. Nevertheless, the bills brought forth for consideration give the representatives a chance to weigh-in and voice their support or opposition to the proposed legislation.

During a recent Commerce and Small Business Committee meeting, District 82 Rep. Pebblin Warren brought House Bill 554 before the group for consideration, which pertained to allowing the same type of electronic bingo gaming machines used by Porch Indian Casino operators to be used in Macon County establishments.

Though the legislation deals with electronic bingo only in Macon County, Baughn’s personal experience in seeing the effect the industry had in Walker County has shaped his opinion on the matter.

“I’ve seen the machines we’re discussing first hand and my estimation, these are slot machines and have nothing to do with the game of bingo they just have a little card in the corner to make it differ from a slot game,” Baughn stated. “I’ve talked to business and citizens in Walker County who suffered because of the bingo halls that were present throughout the area and the effects are still being felt today. I do realize that economically times are still tough, but I don’t believe that gambling is the answer to bring in jobs or income to an area.”

Throughout the discussion, opponents and proponents stated their own points in the hopes of swaying opinion in their direction — clearing showing that the topic of electronic bingo in Alabama divides many citizens across the state.

Reflecting on the first two years

In between the flurry of committee meetings and talks with fellow legislators on congressional matters, Baughn takes time on Wednesdays to tend to issues and speak to constituents in his district, as well as reflect on his first two years as a state law maker.

Since his election to the House of Representatives, Baughn has helped pass legislation that created over 53,000 new jobs and brought in over 1,100 new business or business expansions to the state — such Walter Energy, a 1.2 billion dollar underground mine expansion in South Walker and Northern Tuscaloosa Counties.

Among other accomplishments that Baughn is proud of is the Alabama Trust Fund Repayment Act, where the legislature is required to repay the 437 million dollars borrowed from the Fund by September 30, 2026.

“I met with some Winston County Republicans before we went into this year’s session and told them that one of the bills we wanted to pass was to repay back the money that was transferred from the Fund. I remember that one of the group members has told me she didn’t think a law requiring that repayment would ever pass, but in fact it was the first bill that we passed in this session,” Baughn said. “I was really proud that we were able to do it as it showed our citizens were setting our goals and making sure they’re seen through.”

Baughn also enjoys the relationships he has built with his colleagues in the House and the Senate, which has become a welcome addition to his job.

“It’s really nice to have someone that you trust and that you can go to discuss with ideas. We support each other and work together as a team,” Baughn said. “Naturally I work very closely with Sen. Greg Reed and Rep. Bill Roberts as we all share the goal of serving the citizens of our areas that are inter-connected. I’m great friends with Sen. Paul Bussman, Rep. Ken Johnson and Rep. Mike Millican as well — they’re close to my district and what affects us also affects them so we all work hard to make sure the needs of our communities are take care of. I look at it as like being on a ball team — if we don’t work together, support and trust each other, we won’t move forward and I’m fortunate to have some great people to work with around me.”