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CAPITOL LETTER
State Senate and House differences are glaring

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

MONTGOMERY — One North Alabama House member calls the Legislature playacting for ugly people, in contrast to the images of actors with perfect teeth and glossy hair of the movie industry.

With 15 legislative days gone, and action on serious budget bills looming, the contrast between House and Senate productivity is apparent.

As the backlog of legislation stacks up in the Senate, some politicians like to join the pundits in pointing out how things work, or don’t, in the Statehouse.

Senate 3, House 27

Some observers feel that playacting may apply to the filibusters, slowdowns and bill delays in the Senate, but House Speaker Seth Hammett told reporters after the House adjourned for the week on April 26 that the Legislature’s lower chamber intends to work and is.

As evidence, Hammett produced a list of 27 House bills he defined as major legislation now either in Senate committees or awaiting action by that body.

“We came prepared to work. We would encourage the Senate to do the same,” Hammett said.

Up next in the House

Hammett said he expects the House to take up bills in the Education Budget toward the end of next week. Seven-percent pay hikes for education employees and technology funding for schools are among them. Once budgets move through the House, more pressure builds in the Senate.

Expect slavery resolution

The House passed a resolution by Rep. Mary Moore, D-Birmingham, condemning slavery. The Senate locked down on a lengthier version sponsored by Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma.

Sanders and Moore will confer and return with language they agree on. Supporters and many legislators who did not want the measure say the state does not need a legislative fight over language in a bill on slavery.

They expect compromise for the view of the world stage if no other reason.

Talkin’, or not talkin’

Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, said discussion on Senate rules ended with no more offers of concessions to Republicans and Democrats in a conservative coalition still locking down most action in the Senate.

Sen. Tom Butler, D-Madison, said the talks between Senate Democrats and the coalition are ongoing.

Whatever the answer, Butler said, pressure is building on senators after the 15th work day, when the Legislature by law takes up bills rapidly in succession and pressure builds to quit stalling.

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