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SUNDAY, JANUARY 28, 2007
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Politicians shuffle offices after change in power

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

One way to quickly check the pecking order at the Statehouse is to open an office door because occupants are subject to change with each political upheaval.

Chances are that voters who have tried to call their state senator’s Montgomery office got the telephone runaround. The reason is Senate office juggling with many senators packing up their belongings and moving down the hall.

Most returning members will have the same telephone numbers once they get settled. Senate staffers say by sometime this week, things should return to normal.

Office politics: You can bet the Senate office turnover mirrors a vote tally somewhere. Sen. Tom Butler, D-Madison, and Sen. Jim Preuitt, D-Talladega, are sharing space with two Republicans, Sen. Steve French of Birmingham, and Sen. Charles Bishop of Arley. Butler and Preuitt led the failed leadership coup attempt that carried the promise of sharing power with Republicans.

Now in his third term, French is a former director of the Alabama Republican Party and was a regional political director for the Republican National Committee.

Also in his third term, Bishop served two terms in the Senate as a Democrat from 1983 to 1990.

On the day of the vote for pro tem, Bishop was so angry with the two Democrats who broke with the Preuitt coalition at the last minute that he told reporters outside the Senate chamber that they were pinheads.

Office shopping: Morgan County House members hope to staff an office in the county. Rep. Bill Dukes, D-Decatur; Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, and Rep. Ronald Grantland, D-Hartselle, said they want to use some of the local increase in money that the Tennessee Valley Authority pays the state in place of taxes. The group needs to pass a local bill that lets them spend the money.

If fights in the Senate tie up legislation, that might not happen.

Grantland said lawmakers in the House rarely get messages that people in their district send to the Statehouse, if the Legislature is not in session. Hammon said he never gets telephone messages forwarded from the Statehouse.

Part of the problem is that House members do not have secretaries as their colleagues in the Senate do.

Another chapter on familiar faces: When Senate President Pro Tem Hinton Mitchem, D-Union Grove, held a news conference to announce that he prefiled a school construction bond issue bill, Charley Grimsley was there as Mitchem’s new chief of staff.

No stranger to state politics, Grimsley was conservation and natural resources commissioner when Democrat Jim Folsom Jr. was governor and chief of staff when Republican Steve Windom was lieutenant governor.

“I’ve worked for both sides,” said Grimsley. “That is one reason why Hinton asked me to take this job.”

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