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State lawmakers plan projects during legislative off season

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

MONTGOMERY — “When we take a breather,” was a popular phrase among lawmakers last week as they began planning for projects during the Legislature’s off season.

Delegation office

Rep. Bill Dukes, D-Decatur, confirmed that the Morgan County delegation plans soon to discuss what it needs in a local legislative delegation office.

Dukes said a central location, perhaps along U.S. 31, might be good.

To skeptics who still wonder why lawmakers need an office, Dukes said he believes people in the county will like having the staffed office if the experience in other counties that already have such offices is any indication.

Politics present

When the Senate Ethics and Conduct Committee convened last week in Montgomery, there were apparently several firsts connected with the meeting called to consider the altercation between Sen. Charles Bishop, R-Jasper, and Sen. Lowell, Barron, D-Fyffe.

Although some lawmakers have been reprimanded by their colleagues in the past, Sen. Zeb Little, D-Cullman, said this is the first time that the committee has met to take up questions about a senator.

Committees to address conduct are not new to the Legislature, but in the past decade, only one other complaint led to a committee meeting, and Little said that complaint involved a staff member not a lawmaker.

One reason to go slowly is the impact of state and U.S. constitutional law on committee decisions about discipline for lawmakers.

Minority representation?

Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, said he was a little surprised that ethics and conduct committee members did not elect a Republican as vice chairman of the committee. The committee already elected Sen. Zeb Little, D-Cullman, chairman but when Sen. Jim Preuitt, D-Talladega, proposed Beason for vice chairman, the majority of five Democrats chose Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, as vice chairman.

Preuitt and Beason represented the minority coalition of 12 Republicans and five Democrats who voted together most of the 2007 regular session.

After the meeting, Beason said he believes committee members will work together as they examine issues surrounding the incident in which Bishop socked Barron in the Senate chamber during a recess June 7.

Collins to FEMA council

Alabama Department of Senior Services Executive Director Irene Collins will serve on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s national advisory council.

Collins, who will give a special needs perspective on the council, will be the only Alabamian in the group. In her job, she focuses on the needs of senior citizens and people with disabilities.

FEMA formed the council after Congress passed the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006 to help develop and revise national disaster preparedness plans and strategies.

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