Sen. Paul Bussman, R-Cullman is up for re-election this year. Bussman said his main accomplishments have been in economic development, infrastructure and education. If re-elected, he said his focus will be on education. / Tribune file photo
CULLMAN – As the 2018 campaign season gets into full swing, The Tribune spoke with Sen. Paul Bussman, R- Cullman, the incumbent candidate in Alabama Senate District 4, which includes Cullman County. Bussman took a few moments from his busy schedule in Montgomery to answer a few questions about what he’s done in his time in office and what he hopes to accomplish in the future.
What have you encountered or been working on that will affect Cullman County? Have your plans gone well, and how will what you’re doing now translate into another term?
“Over the last few years, I have been very successful in significant areas that have direct impact on this district. I have secured several million dollars in grant money for economic development, sewer system upgrades and infrastructure needs. Through relationships built with ALDOT (the Alabama Department of Transportation), I have been involved in acquiring tens of millions of dollars for road projects, bridge replacement projects and paving projects. Finding funding to expand our roads and build infrastructure will always be a need and priority.
“I am most proud of the fact that I have been able to help both the city and county every time they asked for assistance with their grant applications. In fact, I have likely secured more funds for the entire area than any previous legislator,” said Bussmann.
“For the first time, all the schools in my district have benefitted from educational grant funds. Almost half a million dollars has been fairly distributed to schools throughout this district. These funds have provided much needed technology upgrades, facility upgrades and structural repairs that were currently not budgeted. I have also provided funding to replace WWII-era equipment at the Cullman Area Technology Academy. All the schools in the district have important needs. It is essential that their needs be heard and that all our schools get their fair share.”
Bussman continued, “As far as legislation is concerned, I have been very influential in important areas that affect many citizens in my district. I was very instrumental in the passage of the autism bill to help our families that deal with autism. This autism legislation will provide treatment that could turn a non-responsive child into a college graduate. I was also very instrumental in the passage of legislation that allowed a woman to decide how and where to deliver her baby, a basic right for a woman.
“Education has been another area of intense involvement and I have stood alone in the Senate to make sure our K-12 and community colleges are treated fairly when budgets are determined. Making sure that K-12 and community colleges don’t fall farther behind is a real concern in the present budgeting process.
“My plans and legislation for this session have gone extremely well. I have proposed 16 different pieces of legislation this session. Nine of those have been enacted into law, one is waiting for the governor’s signature to be enacted into law, five have passed the Senate and moved on to the House for their action. So, all but one of the bills I have led have either been enacted into law or passed by my chamber, the Senate. I have been able to pass these bills because I clearly identify the needs and issues and successfully explain them to the body. I have also built great relationships with many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle.”
What will be the main focus of your next term, if you are re-elected? What do you hope to accomplish?
“The main focus for the next term has to be education. Over the last few years it has become very clear to me that our schools lack leadership from the State Board of Education,” said Bussman. “There is nobody at the state level that is respected enough to fight for K-12 and our community colleges. Locally, our school boards are fighting as hard as they can to address these concerns. But, needless to say, their time and resources are limited. I have found that K-12 and (Wallace State Community College) are at an extreme disadvantage when it comes to the budgeting process. Special interest groups have controlled the budgeting process in education for the last 4 years and during those years I have challenged that special interest. K-12 and community colleges have been cut by tens of millions of dollars over the last few years. I have fought and will continue to fight to bring that money back to K-12 and WSCC. Our children need and deserve better.”
The final word
“When I decided to run for the Senate,” said Bussman, “I promised the district that I would become part of their community. Whether it be Cullman, Moulton, Addison, Haleyville, Hamilton or Hackleburg, I promised to be so involved in their community (so) that they would know I cared for them.
“By traveling more than 13,000 miles per year in the district, I have been actively involved in attracting and securing new industry across this district. I have helped to prevent the closing of a hospital which would have been devastating for this district. I have gone to events, schools, businesses, churches and even funerals because that is what the people of my district deserve,” Bussman shared.
“With all of the district working together, we have come a long way. There is always more work to be done and I intend to continue our forward movement over the next four years.”
Bussman is being challenged for the District 4 Senate seat by Cullman businessman and Cullman City Council President Garlan Gudger. Both candidates have steered a diplomatic course to this point and have refrained from making any public comment about their opponent.
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