By Dan Williams
State Rep. Fifth District
It has been interesting to learn more about the state of Alabama Legislature since Election Day on Nov. 2, 2010. I have had many people ask questions about how the Legislature actually works, when the sessions begin, what committee you will be a part of, and how long will it be in session.
There will be a three-day orientation session for first time legislators held Monday, Dec. 6, 2010, through Wednesday. This orientation will be presented at the Law Center at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. This session should cover most of the logistical aspects of being a member of the Legislature, and certainly will inform me of the most important processes and procedures that occur in the House.
According to the Legislature’s website, the Alabama Legislature will meet in organizational session at noon, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011, for the purpose of organizing each house through election of officers, adoption of rules of each house as well as joint rules of the two houses, establishing standing committees in each house and naming the membership of each, and the election of members to certain joint committees of the two houses. Legislation may not be passed in the organization session, and this session may not meet longer than 10 calendar days.
To assist the new speaker of the House in managing the tremendous demands and transitional issues in an orderly fashion, four transitional committees have been created to research and make recommendations to the speaker and the Republican caucus. These committees are: Committee on Rules; Committee on Internal Affairs and Personnel; Committee on Priority Legislation and Issues; and the Committee on Committees.
There have also been three people appointed to work on an ethics package of bills in case there is a special session called to consider the ethics issue. He will not make any committee assignments until a strategic planning exercise is completed.
There is currently a committee studying the committee structure itself, including whether or not to add new committees. Each member of the caucus will be met with individually to discuss committee requests and other issues. Nothing has been promised to anyone and the new speaker said each member would be notified and consulted before decisions are made.
The 2011 regular session of the Alabama Legislature shall commence at noon, on the first Tuesday of March 2011. A regular session may consist of no more than 30 legislative days within the framework of a 105-calendar day period. I think this generally means that the Legislature has 105 calendar days to complete 30 legislative days. The Legislature meets in session on Tuesday and Thursday of each week, and Wednesdays are usually taken up with committee business.
Someone asked what happens if the Legislature doesn't get through with all its business in the prescribed time. When the 105 days are completed, it is the end of the session. I am not sure the governor could call a special session to consider pending business, but I would think the special session would be reserved for only the most important issues. I do know that a special session can be called in the midst of a regular session of the Legislature.
Governor Riley has said he may call a special session to consider ethics reform legislation. If he calls it, it will be before he leaves office in January 2011. I suppose if he does call one, the organizational session would have to be moved up to accommodate the logistics of organizing the Legislature.
I have found a place to stay in Montgomery during the upcoming session, and if I don't like it I will have other options. Most folks who have to travel some distance spend Tuesday and Wednesday nights in Montgomery, and travel home on Thursday evenings.
I am looking forward to serving the citizens of House District 5 in the Legislature, and I am eager to get on with the important duty of considering and passing good legislation that will bring about good, positive changes to our communities. I really look forward to having more contact with the areas of Ardmore, Elkmont, and all of the West Limestone area, and getting to know more people in these areas on a personal basis.