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House approves new operating rules after partisan feud

By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Republicans in the Alabma House of Representatives approved new procedural rules Tuesday over the objections of Democrats, who argued that would further diminish their ability to exert influence in the GOP-dominated chamber.

The House approved the rules on a partisan 74-27 vote after spending much of its first day of an organizational session in a dispute on the rules that will govern how the chamber operates for the next four years.

Republicans described the changes as modest attempts to focus attention of actual bill debate while Democrats said it further cemented the control of the GOP supermajority. Republicans hold a 77-28 majority in the 105-member House.

“You want to limit my speech,” said Rep. Thomas Jackson, D-Thomasville.

The House ended a longstanding policy of allowing two hours of debate on the special order calendar, which lists which bills will get floor votes that day. Lawmakers voted 92-5 for a compromise that would allow one hour of debate.

Democrats said the debate time is their opportunity to express their opinion and sometimes negotiate, in a chamber where Republicans’ lopsided majority allows them to cut off bill debate and to largely control what gets approved.

“Why are y’all changing the rules to the game you are already winning? …. You don’t have the right to tell me I can’t speak on behalf of those 45,000 people,” Rep. Napoleon Bracy, D-Mobile, said.

Republican Rules Chairman Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, said the goal is to focus on bills instead of “burning two hours” on the daily agenda.

“The effort is to try to move to a point where we can spend more time debating those actual bills and issues and less time at the front end,” Jones said.

Another approved change would allow the speaker of the House to adjust the speed of the computerized reading of bills.

Asking for a bill to be read aloud in the chamber is a common filibuster tactic.

There would also be no floor debate on House resolutions dealing with local issues. Another rules dealt with the discipline of House members, including allowing the speaker to remove members from the building for a full legislative day for disorderly conduct.

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