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State Democrats' campaign promises yet to become acts

MONTGOMERY (AP) — In the heat of last year's election, Democratic legislative leaders laid out a lengthy agenda and promised a vote on it in the first 10 days of the 2007 session.

Those first 10 days have now passed without many of the Democrats' campaign promises coming to a vote.

Sen. Bradley Byrne, R-Fair-hope, said Democrats have been more about talk than action. He said Democrats hold majorities on all major legislative committees, but many of the bills they advocated last year have not yet been considered by any committee.

Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, said there's no reason to try to pass the bills as long as Republicans are stalling action in the Senate.

"I think some of y'all need to turn back in the pay you got before the pay raise," Barron told Republican senators last week.

At news conferences across the state last August, Democratic legislative leaders such as House Speaker Seth Hammett of Andalusia and Senate Majority Leader Zeb Little unveiled the Democratic leadership's "Covenant for the Future."

In it they listed more than 20 issues or bills that Democrats would push. And they promised the bills would start coming up for votes early in the legislative session.

The covenant's list began with a promise: "In the first ten days of the regular legislative session, Alabama Democrats will introduce legislation as required and ensure a vote to enact the plan presented below..."

Thursday marked the 10th meeting day of the regular session. On Tuesday, lawmakers will meet for their 11th day.

Hammett said two major bills on the list — banning the transfer of money between political action committees and prohibiting the hiding of "pork projects" in the state budgets — have already won House approval and are now pending in Senate committees.

The House has also passed a bill on the Democrats' list that would allow law enforcement officers to confiscate the property of people who use computers to solicit children for sex.

Many other items have not come up for a vote in either house, including eliminating the sales tax on food, strengthening the state law against nepotism in state hiring, further reducing the state income tax on families earning less than the federal poverty level, stopping annual property tax reappraisals and enacting a constitutional amendment saying life begins at conception.

Hammett said it's just a matter of time. "We have not forgotten the other items," he said.

In the Senate, the 12 Republicans and a few Democrats who side with the GOP have been stalling action to protest operating rules they consider unfair. So far, an emergency appropriation to rebuild tornado-ravaged schools in Enterprise is the only major bill to make it through both houses of the Legislature.

The stalling has become so bad in the Senate that the presiding officer, Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom Jr., has sought to distance himself from it.

"The chair has no input on what goes on in the body," Folsom said on the 10th meeting day.

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

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