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Riley decides against special session
Governor, Dems fail to agree on purpose

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Republican Gov. Bob Riley decided Tuesday not to call a fall special session of the Legislature because he couldn't get an agreement with Democrats to pass bills dealing with ethics, property taxes and insurance.

"The leaders of the other party have told me they do not want a special session focused on ethics reforms and ending annual reappraisals, despite the fact that they campaigned on those very same reforms during the last election," Riley said in a statement.

"It's a wise move," Senate Majority Leader Zeb Little, D-Cullman, said.

Little said there was no emergency — other than possibly to coastal homeowners facing high insurance costs — that would have warranted spending taxpayers' money on a special session.

Little and other Democratic legislative leaders had told the governor the ethics and property tax issues could wait until the Legislature's next regular session begins Feb. 5.

The Legislature's last regular session ended in June with little passing other than the state budgets and a legislative pay raise.

Bills died that would have toughened state ethics requirements, including banning "pass-through pork" in state budgets, requiring lobbyists to disclose all money they spend entertaining public officials, and prohibiting the transfer of money between political action committees to disguise its origin.

Also failing in the regular
session was legislation to end annual property tax reappraisals that were begun by Riley's state revenue commissioner in 2003.

The bill would have reverted to the old system of doing reappraisals every four years.

The regular session also didn't address the rising cost and declining availability of homeowners insurance along the Alabama coast in the wake of devastating hurricanes.

Riley had talked for weeks about bringing up the three issues in a fall special session, but only if he could get an agreement with Democrats to pass the issues.

House Minority Leader Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, said he had been hopeful because the ethics and property tax legis-
lation were part of the Dem-ocrats' Covenant with Alaba-
ma in the 2006 legislative elections.

"It's disappointing but not surprising that the Democratic leadership would not do what they said they would do in the campaign," he said.

House Speaker Seth Hammett, D-Andalusia, said the House passed ethics bills last session and "will do so again next time we meet."

The House-passed bills died in the Senate, which spent much of the session tied up
in stalling tactics due to disagreements between the Democratic majority and Republican minority over its operating rules.

Hammett said the proposed insurance legislation "faces significant bipartisan opposition. So, I think the governor made the right decision."

Veteran Democratic Rep. James Buskey of Mobile said governors who want to have successful special sessions communicate with legislators beforehand to build support.

"Unless the governor communicates what he intends to accomplish, there's no reason to call a special session. The governor has not done that," Buskey said.

Little, the Senate majority leader, said he never received a call from Riley or his staff about building a consensus.

"Governor Riley is the most partisan governor we've ever had," Little said.

Sen. Ben Brooks, R-Mobile, has been working on legislation to help hold down the rising cost of homeowners insurance. He said he is still hopeful it can be isolated in a special session right before or during the regular session.

But Brooks must answer questions within his own party before advancing the bill.

Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, said his constituents want to make sure their insurance costs won't go up to take care of people with beach homes.

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

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