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3 area lawmakers keep budget committee seats

By M.J. Ellington
mjellington@decaturdaily.com ∑ (334) 262-1104

MONTGOMERY — Committees in the Legislature that hold the purse strings have power.

Jeff Woodard, chief of staff for Speaker of the House Seth Hammett, said power extends beyond lawmakers who chair the committees to committee members.

Three area lawmakers who retained their seats on the main House budget committees for the next four years returned home with smiles on their faces when the Legislature recessed last week.

Members of the Senate will wait days or weeks to learn their assignments.

Rep. Ronald Grantland, D-Hartselle, and Rep. Jody Letson, D-Hillsboro, are on the government appropriations committee. Grantland said Hammett wants him to work on detailed budget assignments.

Budget committees hold a different kind of power, especially in the House where budget bills usually originate.

The Education Finance and Appropriations committee develops budgets for schools, colleges and most education-related services.

The Government Finance and Appropriations committee does the same for all other state departments and agencies.

Expected growth

Both Grantland and Letson said they will look for ways to help their districts, where expected rapid growth will bring needs for services. Grantland will chair the subcommittee that studies allocations for different agencies. Letson is on the subcommittee that looks at salaries and benefits for state employees.

Rep. Jeremy Oden, R-Eva, is a member of the education appropriations committee that develops allocations for K-12 schools, colleges and universities and most education-related services.

Odenís subcommittee will make recommendations on salaries and benefits for education employees.

But he said he hopes the committee work will include brick and mortar improvements for his district.

Woodard said other power committees include Rules, which determines the bills the House will take up each day.

There are no Morgan-Lawrence-Limestone House members on the committee.

Repercussions

There were hints of repercussions in committee assignments handed out to members of the House, where Democrats secured more committee assignments and Republicans lost assignments compared to four years ago.

House Republican minority leader Mike Hubbard of Auburn lost his spot on the House education appropriations committee and he said the reason was politics.

Hubbard, who lives in Auburn, said one House member representing Auburn always serves on the education budget committee and another member looks out for The University of Alabama.

The new committee shift put Hubbard on the agriculture and forestry committee, a
move that made the Auburn Radio Network executive steam.

Hammett said another Republican and avid Auburn fan, Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin, D-Pelham, will represent her schoolís interests on the committee.

She previously served on the government appropriations committee.

Hammett denied Hubbardís charge, but Hubbard did guide Republican Party efforts to defeat Democrats in the 2006 elections.

Targeted campaigns

Targeted campaigns included Hammettís own district along with North Alabama seats that Grantland and Rep. Henry White, D-Athens, won.

Grantland said he saw some justice in the Hubbard appointment that followed his own election after a bitter campaign.

Hammett said the Hubbard committee change was just a shift in the 593 regular committee assignments that House leaders made.

With subcommittee assignments added in, the total number of assignments topped 800, said Woodard.

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