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CAPITOL LETTER
Frustrating legislative session ends with bang

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

MONTGOMERY — The sock seen around the world late Thursday called attention to one of the least productive legislative sessions in Alabama history.

When Sen. Charles Bishop, R-Jasper, hit Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, in the head in the Senate chamber, he not only exposed the state’s divided Senate to the world, he also provided fodder for pundits and computer geeks.

Within hours of the altercation on the 30th and last day of the legislative session, news organizations around the world carried clips of video footage shot by Alabama Public Television cameraman Adam Vincent. Even reporters normally in the Senate had to look at the video to describe still images from the video that followed in print publications soon afterward.

Then the ‘fun’ started

YouTube.com carried the video footage, as did blogs all over the state. Early Friday, reporters who cover the Statehouse got e-mails with still images from the scene, including one mock video game cover entitled “ROCK ’EM, SOCK ’EM Battlin’ Senators.”

One nameless lawmaker who had his own verbal battles with Barron wondered if he could capture the video scenes as a computer screen saver.

Another lawmaker said the fight is not the image that Alabama needs to send to the rest of the world these days. The Senate, she said, should be ashamed.

Good year locally

Bills to provide money for economic development, a staffed legislative office and planning for the future are all things that made Morgan County lawmakers score the session with high marks for local measures.

Rep. Bill Dukes, D-Decatur, said he believes the support of county and city officials for the county’s local bills helped assure Gov. Bob Riley that money coming to Morgan County will be used right.

Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, and Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, said the local support did make a difference with the governor.

Rep. Ronald Grantland, D-Hartselle, said he believes the outlook for area economic development is brighter, especially with wheels in motion on the proposed Interstate 65 industrial park near Hartselle. But Grantland said he is sorry that so many good bills, including health care measures and a ban on transfers of funds between political action committees, died because of problems in the Senate. “It is frustrating,” Grantland said.

About next year

Hammon said he would introduce a package of illegal immigrant legislation again in 2008. None of Hammon’s bills made it out of the House committees to which they were assigned. Hammon said he promised during his campaign that he would work for immigration law changes. He also wants the state to push for a repeal of the yearly property tax reappraisals.

Orr said he wants to re-introduce a bill extending the state Public Health Department’s medical liability coverage to retired doctors who volunteer their time at free clinics. Although the bill had broad support from lawmakers in both parties, it died in legislative deadlock.

Daddy-to-be

Rep. Jeremy Oden, R-Eva, left the Statehouse on crutches Thursday, saying he had a “little sprain” on one ankle. “It is no big deal,” he said.

Oden and his wife, Samantha, expect their first child, a daughter, in mid-July.

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