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Chamber and youth groups spend day with lawmakers

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

MONTGOMERY — Government in action, and sometimes inaction, was part of the day when members of the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber
of Commerce and Youth
Leadership Morgan County spent Thursday with lawmakers.

In the morning, Youth Leadership members Tim Savoy of Priceville and Jake Gray of Decatur were in the hallway outside the House chamber.

Their assignments included lobbying their lawmakers to oppose identical House and Senate bills that would establish Christian Heritage Week each fall in public schools.

The group voted during its early-morning bus ride from Decatur to oppose the bills, which are sponsored by Rep. Blaine Galliher, R-Gadsden, and Sen. Zeb Little, D-Cullman. That sentiment was shared by members of a House committee, which had decided not to approve Galliher's bill the previous afternoon.

"We are Christians, but we decided that a Christian Heritage Week is not fair to students in other religions," Savoy said.

Gray said the group talked about how the country was founded on religious freedom, something he believes is important.

Grass roots

The youths used the bills to learn about grass-roots communication with their elected officials.

Adult chamber members heard reports from Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, and Reps. Bill Dukes, D-Decatur, and Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, during an afternoon session.

"All in all, I do believe we have good government in Montgomery, but there are some things we might like to change," Dukes said.

Dukes said he believes there is stronger sentiment for home rule than in the past and that local officials today, unlike their predecessors, don't want to hide "behind the Legislature" to avoid making controversial decisions on their own without first having to get approval from lawmakers in Montgomery.

Orr focused on the Senate logjam that has resulted from disagreements about the body's operating rules.

Orr is part of a bipartisan coalition that is trying to change rules the majority enacted earlier this year, and he said no bills have died because of the slowdown in Senate action.

Coalition's goals

The coalition wants more time for senators to discuss bills before voting, recorded votes instead of voice votes and better notice of committee agendas so that legislators know about bills coming up for a vote.

Orr also said he opposes a proposed bill to de-annex land from Madison, which could lead to Huntsville annexing the property. He said the measure is "rife for mischief."

Hammon came off the House floor to talk to the chamber group as representatives debated what to do about the state's presidential primary, currently set for first Tuesday in February.

On the Alabama Gulf Coast, that day is also the time of Fat Tuesday celebrations, making voting in some districts difficult.

Hammon told the group he supports business and tries to think of how bills that affect business will impact North Alabama.

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