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Fourth week ends for Legislature with crowds, questions

By M.J. Ellington · (334) 262-1104

MONTGOMERY — Crowds and conflict marked the fourth week of the Legislature’s regular session, with crowds a noteworthy presence.

Rallies and group field trips to the capital city swelled demand for space in the Statehouse last week and brought reminders of how the Legislature’s current space was to be temporary, but is not.

The 400 passionate fishermen, protesting a bill to put new restrictions on gill net fishing along the Gulf, are the most recent example.

But there are others daily.

Space, especially areas where lawmakers discuss the merits of bills in committee meetings, is getting tighter for public observers.

Nobody is suggesting that the state dust off plans drawn long ago for larger quarters, because of budget constraints.

For the public, the message is to expect crowds and the likelihood of standing-room-only space to see the Legislature.

The people’s constitution

Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, introduced a bill last week that he said would enable voters to propose new laws and constitutional amendments by a process called initiative and referendum.

The bill requires supporters to file a copy of the proposed changes, along with a petition signed by at least 1,000 qualified Alabama voters and a $1,000 filing fee.

The bill also provides for the Legislature to offer its own proposals. Orr filed SB 378 last week.

Rep Mike Ball, R-Huntsville, filed a similar HB 263 in the House.

Hallway talk

Seven percent raises for teachers and a 3.5 percent increase for state employees next year seem to be the consensus on raises among lobbyists and other groups who congregate in the hallways near lawmakers’ offices.

State employees could see another 3.5 percent the next year if the money is there to give them. State employees’ association director Mac McArthur still says he wants a 7 percent
state employee raise, but
general fund money is tight. Again.

Dukes the oldest

Bill Dukes turned 80 on the first day of a special session last month.

He told visitors from the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce on Thursday that the Legislature’s record keepers told him the birthday brought special distinction.

He is not only the oldest member serving in the House; now he is the oldest member of the Legislature. Magazines and newsletters of several state organizations make note of Dukes’ distinction in current issues.

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