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GOP House leader ousted from major committee

By Bob Johnson
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — The Republican leader in the Alabama House has been removed from an important budget committee, an ouster that he blames on partisan political moves of Democratic House Speaker Seth Hammett, who also cut the GOP's presence on other key panels.

House Minority Leader Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, said politics was behind his removal from the committee that writes the state education budget — an influential post for a House member whose district includes Auburn University.

Hubbard has served on the panel for the past eight years, but was not listed as a member when Hammett released committee assignments late Tuesday.

"I think it's petty," Hubbard told The Associated Press. "If it's in retaliation for me being the minority leader and working to elect more Republicans, I have no apologies."

Hammett said he wanted to make a change on the committee and that it had nothing to do with Hubbard being minority leader.

"I told Mike that we needed to make a change," Hammett said.

Hammett said the change also had nothing to do with ads run by the Republican Party in Hammett's South Alabama district during last year's election campaign that described the speaker as being part of "the failed policies of the past" and criticized him for using his campaign funds to support other Democrats and "help liberals stay in office."

Instead of being on the Education Appropriations Committee, Hubbard was assigned to the Government Operations Committee and the Agriculture and Forestry Committee.

The new committee assignments leave the education budget committee with no members from Lee County, home of Auburn University. Historically the committee has included at least one member from the Auburn area and one from Tuscaloosa, home of the University of Alabama, so that the state's two largest universities would have voices on the committee.

Hammett said he did not feel like he was slighting Auburn by removing Hubbard from the panel. He said another committee member, Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin, R-Pelham, is an avid Auburn supporter and would "look after Auburn's needs."

Hubbard has close ties to Auburn University, serving as president of a network that broadcasts athletic events at the school.

Hubbard said Hammett also reduced the number of Republicans on the House's three most important committees — Rules, Education Appropriations and Government Appropriations — down to just five out of 15 members on each panel.

"I am extremely disappointed," Hubbard said.

Hammett defended the way all of the committee assignments were made.

"I think I was very fair in all of the committee assignments. I tried to accomodate as many of the requests as I could. To say that cutting one person from each of three committees is wrong is unreasonable," Hammett said.

The charges broke what started out as a love fest in the House during the organizational session as Republicans and Democrats joined together to re-elect Hammett speaker by a 103-0 vote. Speaker Pro Tem Demetrius Newton, D-Birmingham, was re-elected 102-0. That was in sharp contrast to the Senate, where a bitter power struggle ended in Sen. Hinton Mitchem, D-Union Grove, being elected president pro tem by an 18-17 vote.

Hammett made few other major changes to the committees, renaming House Majority Leader Rep. Ken Guin, D-Carbon Hill, to chair the important Rules Committee, which decides the daily work agenda in the House. Rep. Richard Lindsey, D-Centre, was renamed chair of Education Appropriations and Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, will continue to be in charge of the Government Appropriations Committee.

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

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