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Little accomplished during first half of legislative session

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Legislature finished the first half of its 2007 session Thursday, with so little accomplished that there’s no danger of the governor getting writer’s cramp from signing bills.

Since convening March 6, the Legislature has given final approval to three bills. The inaction is primarily because of stalling in the Senate by 12 Republicans and five dissident Democrats who want changes in the Senate’s new operating rules.

“The rules are not going to be changed. Y’all just keep shutting down government,” Senate Rules Committee Chairman Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, told Republicans on Thursday.

The House, meanwhile, has been working at its normal pace, with the bills it has passed starting to create a backlog in the Senate. House Speaker Seth Hammett, D-Andalusia, complained Thursday that the House has passed many significant bills, including restricting money transfers between political action committees and seizing the property of Internet predators. But they are sitting in the Senate.

“I am frustrated. The House has been here hour after hour, day after day, doing what we are supposed to do. I hope that at some time the Senate will join us,” Hammett said.

3 bills that made it

The three bills that have made it through both houses of the Legislature: a $32 million appropriation to rebuild two tornado-ravaged schools in Enterprise, routine legislation to put the laws enacted last year into the Alabama Code, and another routine bill to extend the existence of the state Board of Registration for Interior Design for another year.

The governor has signed the first two bills into law, and the third is on its way to his desk.

The Legislature has also passed a resolution, over the governor’s veto, to raise its compensation 61 percent.

Each day in the Senate, Republicans talk at length about nearly every bill that is brought up for debate. They are protesting the Senate’s new operating rules that allow 18 senators, rather than the traditional 21, to cut off debate on the state budgets and on bills to redesign legislative and congressional districts.

Sen. Larry Dixon, R-Montgomery, said the minority fears the Senate’s 18-member Democratic majority will use the rules to ram through budgets without full debate and redesign legislative districts to make it harder for Republicans to win.

“With a couple of rules changes, we’ll begin to function,” he said.

Senate Democrats say the new rules are designed to make sure the Legislature doesn’t default on its legal duties to pass budgets and draw political districts.

Barron told Dixon that he ought to be called “Newt” in recognition of former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his role in the federal government shutdown in 1995 during a budget dispute with President Clinton.

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

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