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Hammett to serve 3rd term as House speaker

By Bob Johnson
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — While the Senate fought over political control, the Alabama House remained firmly in Democratic hands Tuesday, voting 103-0 to elect Rep. Seth Hammett, D-Andalusia, to a record-tying third consecutive term as speaker.

The House also elected veteran civil rights lawyer Rep. Demetrius Newton, D-Birmingham, to a third term as speaker pro tem. Hammett ties the late Rep. Jimmy Clark of Eufaula as the only House members to serve three four-year terms as speaker.

While Republicans and a handful of Democratic dissidents narrowly lost a bid for control in the Senate, Hammett found no partisan bumps in his path to the speaker’s chair.

“We feel like we’re in good solid position here with a solid Democratic majority sticking together,” Hammett said.

House Majority Leader Rep. Ken Guin, D-Carbon Hill, said the wins by Hammett and Newton show the strength of Democrats in the House and also “how much members think of the speaker and the speaker pro tem.”

Democrats hold a 61-43 edge over Republicans in the House, which has one open seat.

With his 92-year-old father, Marvin Hammett, in the House gallery and his wife, Nancy, by his side, Hammett asked House members to forget the bitterness of recent election battles when they get down to business in the regular session that begins March 6.

“Remember why you wanted to serve in the first place and what you promised people you would do if elected,” said Hammett, who has served in the House for 28 years.

He hugged and kissed his wife and shook hands with other representatives after appeals court Judge Sue Bell Cobb swore him in to a third term as speaker. Cobb will take the oath next week as Alabama’s first woman Supreme Court chief justice.

The only disagreement in the House came during the adoption of rules when some black and Republican lawmakers tried to keep an informal rule that allows one lawmaker to indefinitely delay a bill, without other members getting a chance to table that motion.

“Don’t deny yourself the right to kill a bad bill,” Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, said, arguing that the delaying motion is a key procedural move members can use to stop a bill.

But Hammett said the rule change just brings the House in line with standard rules of order. The House voted 86-10 to allow members to table the motion to indefinitely postpone.

The House also turned down a proposal by Rep. Joseph Mitchell, D-Mobile, that would have allowed for debates on the House floor to be recorded electronically.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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