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Speaker calls legislative session a success

By Bob Johnson
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Despite a protracted slowdown in the Senate and a final day incident where one senator slugged
another, House Speaker Seth Hammett on Friday called the 2007 regular session of the Legislature a success, citing the largest-ever budgets and bond issue.

Accomplishments

Hammett said accomplishments include pay raises for teachers and state employees along with the record education and state operating budgets and a more than $1 billion bond issue to fund a massive building program for state public schools and colleges.

"We're about to see a lot of needed repairs to our education system," said Hammett, D-Andalusia.

But the speaker expressed disappointment that a number of bills that had passed the House died in the final moments of the session Thursday, shortly before midnight.

They included a measure to make it a crime for truck
drivers not to properly tie down steel coils and another to prevent prisoners from using artwork to make money off their crimes.

The bills were killed by Sen. Phil Poole, D-Tuscaloosa, who asked that most bills sponsored by Republicans in the House be carried over, a move that automatically kills a bill when time is running out in the final moments of the session.

Earlier Republicans in the House had successfully fought off efforts by Democrats to restore a $1 million earmark in the General Fund budget for road projects in Tuscaloosa County, which Poole represents.

"I think a lot of legislation was killed in the Senate for the wrong reasons," Hammett said.

Poole did not return a call to his office seeking comment Friday. He said Thursday night
he was killing the bills because Republicans had used stalling tactics to kill much of the session.

"You killed this bill for 29 days and 12 hours," Poole told Republicans, who complained about him killing the steel coils legislation.

Poole's actions did not sit well with Rep. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, sponsor of the bill to stop inmates from using artwork to profit from their crimes.

"It was pure political payback. I can't imagine the residents of our state possibly being
happy with that outcome.

When you looked at the way he killed those bills, it puts an exclamation point on the Senate's activity," Ward said.

Last-minute approvals

But another bill, sponsored by Ward and Sen. Myron Penn, D-Union Springs, and pushed by Attorney General Troy King, did pass in the final minutes in the Senate.

That bill allows children
testifying in sexual abuse cases
to give testimony outside
the presence of the defendant. King had made the legislation his top goal for the 2007 session.

"With the passage of this bill, child victims are freed from the terror of facing those who have already inflicted horrific and often upspeakable harm to them," King said.

The Senate also took action in the final moments that will make it a little more expensive for fishermen, hunters and boaters in Alabama.

The Senate passed bills increasing the cost of hunting and fishing licenses and boating registration for the first time since 1989.

Alabama Department of Conservation officials asked
for the increases to provide additional funds to support conservation and wildlife management efforts and allow the state to hire additional game wardens.

The increase in fees was backed by some organizations that support hunting and fishing and wildlife management in the state.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Thomas Jackson, D-Thomasville, raises the cost of a resident freshwater fishing license in Alabama from $9.50 to $12 and the cost of a
resident hunting license from $16 to $24.

The cost of registering a boat would be raised depending on the size of the boat.

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

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