LEGISLATURE HOLDS ORGANIZATIONAL SESSION
MONTGOMERY, Ala. - The Alabama Legislature met Tuesday and Wednesday for the organizational session in which members elect leaders, set joint rules and assign committees before the regular session officially begins March 4.
The Senate, in an anticipated 19-16 vote, re-elected Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, as president pro tem. Sen. Barron pledged to work cooperatively with the full Senate, Governor-elect Bob Riley and Lt. Governor-elect Lucy Baxley, whom watched the day's activities from the Senate gallery. The Senate also elected Sen. Jeff Enfinger, D-Huntsville, as its new floor leader and created a new "Dean of the Senate," Bobby Denton, D-Muscle Shoals.
In the House, state representatives kept the same leadership, unanimously re-electing Rep. Seth Hammett, D-Andalusia, as speaker and Rep. Demetrius Newton, D-Birmingham, as speaker pro tem.
Both chambers spent Tuesday afternoon negotiating new rules for the quadrennium. The House resolved a time-certain debate that was proposed to limit debate to an hour. But minority leaders strongly objected to what they called "parliamentary tools that take away the right to filibuster."
Three hours later, House members reached a compromise and adopted procedural rules. Before adjourning for the day, Speaker Hammett appointed committee assignments. The House Agriculture and Forestry Committee has eight freshmen legislators, one new member and six returning members. Rep. Thomas Jackson, D-Thomasville, remains committee chairman, and Rep. John Robinson, D-Scottsboro, was reappointed vice chair.
The freshmen committee members include Greg Albritton, R-Excel, who is the ranking minority member; Spencer Collier, R- Irvington; Warren Beck, R-Geneva; Rusty Glover, R-Semmes; Micky Hammon, R-Decatur; Yusaf Salaam, D-Selma; Bobby Singleton, D-Marion; and Cam Ward, R-Alabaster.
Another new committee member is Billy Beasley, D-Clayton. Returning members include Lucius Black, D-Livingston; Joe Carothers, D-Dothan; Tommy Carter, D-Elkmont; and Allen Layson, D-Reform. On Wednesday, the Senate spent the day debating joint rules before finally agreeing on transferring bills and resolutions between both chambers. Two proposals to change members' expenses were placed on the table but didn't pass, as of yet.
Legislators are watching several major issues that likely will dominate the session starting in March, namely Alabama's funding shortfall, education funding, tax reform and Governor-elect Riley's first legislative agenda. The Senate will make committee assignments on Tuesday when it returns to close out the organizational session.