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‘We can do more’ Alabama Legislature elects leaders in organizational session

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Alabama Legislature elected its leadership and the House adopted its operating rules for the next four years on Tuesday.

In unanimous, bipartisan votes, Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, is the speaker of the Alabama House and Sen. Greg Reed, R-Jasper, remains the pro tem of that chamber. 

After accepting the gavel, Ledbetter spoke about recent accomplishments of state leaders, including better education budgeting, efforts to expand broadband internet in rural areas and job creation. After each point, Ledbetter said, “But we can do more.” 

He also reiterated that the House was the people’s chamber and their voices would be heard “not through grandstanding, but fair and productive debate.” 

Other House leaders are Majority Leader Scott Stadthagen, R-Hartselle, and Speaker Pro Tem Chris Pringle, R-Mobile.

Reed was first elected Senate pro tem in 2021. He told reporters that he is committed to listening to all voices.

“We’re going to disagree on things, that’s the process … but the fact that we’re willing to say upfront that we’re committed to allowing everybody to speak their piece and be engaged in the process allows for the best outcome for the people of Alabama.”

Sen. Clay Scofield, R-Guntersville, remains majority leader.

In his final comments as a lawmaker, outgoing Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, told lawmakers to remember where they came from. 

“Representing the people and their needs is what we’re here for,” said McCutcheon, who did not seek reelection last year.

By a vote of the House, John Treadwell became clerk of the house. That’s the top staff position in the chamber, overseeing procedures and staff.

The lawmakers’ regular bill-passing session begins in March. When they meet, the House will operate under different rules pertaining to objections to local bills, how the body debates proposed amendments to bills and how much public notice is given on committee meetings late in the session. 

The rules were approved largely along party lines, 79-24. They include allowing committee leaders to give six-hour notice of meetings on bills received from the Senate after the 20th legislative day. Currently, 24-hour notice is required up to the 27th of 30 legislative days, unless the chamber votes to suspend rules.

Ledbetter told reporters that toward the end of sessions, lawmakers are anxious to move their bills quickly.

“Going forward, it will enable members to move their legislation better,” he said.

Another change pertains to local bills, which apply to only one county. Currently, one lawmaker can contest a local bill and delay its advancement. This rule change would delay a bill if at least 11 members from outside the county contest it. Also, in large counties like Madison and Jefferson, 2 representatives or 20% of the delegation, whichever number is greater, could contest a local bill. For smaller counties without stand alone committees, one member can still contest a local bill from their county.

If a bill is contested, a vote by the entire House is required before it can be considered by the chamber.

Democrats on the House floor Tuesday asked why lawmakers from outside a county would contest a bill that doesn’t apply to their districts.

“Why would I want to contest someone else’s local bills?” Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, asked on the House floor.

But Rep. Joe Lovvorn, R-Auburn, the new House Rules Committee chairman, said it has happened because of grudges and personal issues.

“But If 11 people sign on, there may be an issue there with the legislation that deserves consideration,” Lovvorn said.

Other changes include:

  • Rule 14: Would allow the speaker to re-refer a bill to another committee once it has been given a favorable vote in the committee it was originally assigned. This was done very rarely previously.
  • Rule 65: Adds the Ports, Waterways and Intermodal Transit Committee to the list of standing committees and strikes the Technology and Research Committee.
  • Rule 69: Currently, committee amendments to bills are debated and voted on separately on the House floor, with no limit on debate. This change would put all committee amendments into an engrossed substitute to be considered on the floor.

House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, D-Huntsville, told reporters Tuesday afternoon the changes “could have been worse” and Democrats were able to input, including pushing back against a proposed change to limit debate on the chamber’s daily calendar from one hour to 30 minutes. That change was spiked.

The organizational session continues Wednesday. The Senate is expected to adopt its own rules for the next four years.

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