News from the Tennessee Valley State, Local and National news
SUNDAY, JULY 8, 2007

Legislators spend summer days in meetings

By M.J. Ellington · (334) 262-1104

MONTGOMERY — Lazy summer days in Montgomery often mean that elected officials are off somewhere else at meetings of another kind.

Even in a year when lawmakers know a special session is inevitable, there is not much chance that a governor will call a special session until after those meetings take place.

This year, Jeff Emerson, Gov. Bob Riley’s communications director, said there is no special session on the radar.

“That could change at any moment, but there is nothing right now,” he said.

All those meetings

July and August are meeting times for legislators across the country. The Southern Legislative Conference and the National Conference of State Legislatures both meet in the next few weeks, and a group of local lawmakers usually attend one or both.

Reps. Bill Dukes, D-Decatur, Ronald Grantland, D-Hartselle, Jody Letson, D-Hillsboro, and Henry White, D-Athens, will all attend the Southern Legislative Conference in Williamsburg, Va., later this month.

In that category

Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, will share his opinions about the problems surrounding illegal immigration as a panelist during the Eagle Forum of Alabama Leadership Conference on Saturday in the Birmingham area.

The conference schedule also lists as an invited panelist U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions.

Others on the panel with Hammon and Sessions include Georgia Sen. Nancy Schaefer and Rosemary Jenks, an attorney and Washington consultant.

“I am honored to be put in that category,” Hammon said.

Hammon said he would keep working to stop illegal immigration. He sponsored bills on the subject during the 2007 legislative session and similar measures in previous sessions.

Nobody going to school?

State Superintendent of Education Joe Morton was a little frustrated with this year’s set of reporter inquiries about the state’s high school graduation rate ranking. In the latest measurement of the number of students who graduated from public schools across the country, Alabama’s rate was once again close to the bottom.

Morton said the problem is that different states do not use the same criteria to determine graduation rates and companies scoring the states do not either.

“Now everybody thinks we are down here with nobody going to school, which is absolutely insane,” Morton said after a recent meeting.

Alabama and 44 other states are going to standards recommended by the National Governor’s Association, which should help clear the confusion, Morton said.

Morgan judge need

Orr said he’s still working to get an additional district judge for Morgan County. The Legislature approved the post in 2002, but so far there is no funding. Orr said he hopes that at some point, there will be a way to fund operating costs.

Community Service Grant

Many classroom teachers and education-related projects across the state will be in line for Legislative Community Service Grants between now and the end of the state’s fiscal year Sept. 30.

Lawmakers are beginning to submit grant applications for projects in their districts. Orr said he will do mini-grants for some classroom teachers in his district.

Grantland said he is going through applications before making his decision about the grants.

High student achievement

Athens Middle School was among two middle schools in the state recognized for teaching rigorous curriculum and students who are high achievers. The Southern Regional Education Board awarded Athens and Floyd Middle School in Montgomery the 2007 award for their achievements.

The board works with government and education leaders in 16 states.

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