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CAPITOL LETTER
Negotiation likely key word for legislators during spring break

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

MONTGOMERY — “Let’s negotiate” may be the key phrase for legislators beginning a week of spring break with the hope of more productive times ahead.

The same phrase may be part of the vocabulary for members of the state Board of Education, Gov. Bob Riley and interim post-secondary college system Chancellor Renee Culverhouse over proposed changes in board policy about hiring legislators at the colleges.

Apologizing for slavery

Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said he wants to know what voters in his Senate District 3 think about a bill that would be an Alabama apology for slavery. Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, introduced the bill and its emotional discussion shut down the Senate last week.

Orr said slavery is wrong, but some senators questioned whether the bill would set the state up for lawsuits. Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia passed similar bills. Georgia’s legislature is considering a bill. Rep. Mary Moore, D-Birmingham, introduced the same bill in the Alabama House, which has not debated it.

About those Senate rules

Sen. Tom Butler, D-Madison, said he expects serious discussion in the ad-hoc committee to resolve the Senate operating rules dispute.

He said some discussion took place and more will happen before April 24 when the Legislature comes back from spring break.

One wag whose legislative observation goes back more than 20 years said lawmakers always look for some way to kill a few days of productivity at the beginning of a session while they get used to new leaders and members.

About double-dipping

Speaker of the House Seth Hammett, D-Andalusia, said the governor’s double-dipping bill is not a good one and doesn’t stand much chance of passing this session. Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, agreed to sponsor the measure for Riley in the House but he, too, said the bill faces an uphill battle.

“I don’t believe anybody should be precluded from serving in the Legislature because of their job,” Hammett said. “I also don’t think someone should get a job just because they are in the Legislature.”

Hammett served as president of a community college in his hometown while in the Legislature.

State employee raises?

Hammett also said raises for state employees may not happen this year. Although General Fund budget committee Chairman John Knight, D-Montgomery, searched for a financial rabbit to pull out of the General Fund hat, so far, there are no long, green, floppy ears on which to tug.

About Guin

Hammett said the House Democratic caucus is the right body to decide whether to discipline House Majority Leader Ken Guin for holding two jobs at the same time with similar time schedules and pay requests. Some House members are upset and Guin resigned one of the jobs last week.

The governor’s requested policy prohibiting legislative double dipping by post-secondary and elementary school employees could come up for a vote April 24 at Calhoun Community College. Decatur’s board member, David Byers, R-Birmingham, could be a pivotal vote.

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