Governor Bentley addresses lawmakers on storms

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Governor Robert Bentley addressed a joint session of the Alabama Legislature Tuesday evening in the Old House Chamber of the Capitol where he praised recovery efforts following the tornadoes that ravaged through parts of North Alabama nearly a week ago.

"I've seen for myself the utter devastation in towns large and small. And I've listened to families tell me of their tragedies" the governor said.

The speech lasted about 20 minutes and he was stopped by applause on several occasions. The majority of individuals in the room consisted of lawmakers, cabinet members and other government officials.

Bentley called on anyone affected in any fashion by the storms that they register with FEMA immediately.

"You must call now so that we may know your losses and the impact on our state."

He also remarked about the massive damage to some towns and counties. Though he hasn't paid visits to all of those places, Governor Bentley said he will be there in the future to survey the damage.

Governor Bentley also said the state would assist in debris removal.

"To make sure there is no delay in getting this recovery and rebuilding process moving quickly, I have committed the state to pay the local government's share for 30 days."

Lawmakers also took steps Tuesday to help decrease the burden on storm victims.

The House and Senate each passed a joint resolution pledging to provide additional funds to schools that need it after FEMA and insurance assistance have been exhausted.

House Speaker Mike Hubbard said it would likely come in the form of a bond issue which is a loan the state would pay back over time.

House members also passed a measure that would ease the tax burden on those who lost their homes. For many their property tax was poised to increase starting October 1 but this bill will freeze it at the current rate.

Governor Bentley praised lawmakers for their work, singling out the education measure during his address.

"Tonight I ask you to support emergency legislation to provide our State Superintendent of Education, Dr. Joe Morton, with flexibility to manage the challenges that lie ahead for our local school systems."

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