Monday, December 6, 2010

Rookie Alabama lawmakers aim to learn ropes during orientation

Published: Monday, December 06, 2010, 5:30 AM ??? Updated: Monday, December 06, 2010, 5:50 AM

MONTGOMERY -- Rookie members of Alabama's Legislature say they're looking forward to meeting colleagues and learning some lawmaking do's and don'ts at a legislative orientation that starts today at the University of Alabama School of Law.

''I'm expecting these people at the orientation session to tell me things I need to know to do the best job I can," said freshman Rep. Allen Farley, R-McCalla.

''I'll be sitting there taking notes just like that first day in high school, that first day in college," said Farley, 59, a retired Jefferson County assistant sheriff.

Organizers of the orientation expect all but about nine of Alabama's 140 legislators to attend the event, which is scheduled to include speeches by Gov.-elect Robert Bentley, Lt. Gov.-elect Kay Ivey, Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb and many others.

Veteran lawmakers said the orientation can help newcomers. ''It may not be quite as good for those of us who have been there quite a while, but for brand new legislators, it's invaluable," said Rep. Demetrius Newton, D-Birmingham, a member of the House of Representatives since 1986.

There will be lots of fresh faces? attending, since 35 percent -- 49 out of 140 -- of legislators elected to four-year terms Nov. 2 hold seats they didn't hold just before the election.

Sixteen of the 35 senators hold seats they didn't have just before Nov. 2, including some former members of the House of Representatives and former Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, who lost his re-election bid in 2006 but was reinstated by voters after four years.

In the House, 33 of its 105 members hold seats they didn't have just before Nov. 2, including Republicans Lynn Greer of Rogersville and Kerry Rich of Albertville, who are returning after absences.

''I'm looking forward to getting to know the entire body better than I do now, and I'm looking forward to learning a little more about the process," said freshman Rep. Mark Tuggle, R-Alexander City.

Freshman Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, said that besides learning about ''the dynamics of the Legislature," she is looking forward to meeting with her new colleagues. ''This will be the first time that all of us will be able to come together," she said.

Another chance will come at the State House starting at 4 p.m. Wednesday, the start of a special session on ethics and campaign finance called by Gov. Bob Riley.

The timing likely means many lawmakers will be on the road between Tuscaloosa and Montgomery that day, since Bentley is scheduled to speak at the orientation at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Bentley spokeswoman Rebekah Mason said Bentley plans to deliver ''the best locker-room speech he can give to the newly elected Republican-controlled Legislature."

Other speakers at the three-day event will talk about ethics, public relations, budgets, the state economy and redistricting: Lawmakers will be asked to redraw, in time for the 2012 elections, Alabama's seven congressional districts to reflect population changes shown by the 2010 census, and to redraw legislative districts in time for the 2014 elections.

Freshman Rep. Kurt Wallace, R-Maplesville, said he hopes to learn a lot talking with veteran lawmakers at the orientation. ''I just want to know, from guys who have been there, what to expect, that type of thing," he said. ''I'm new. I don't know what I don't know."

House and Senate Democratic and Republican caucuses are scheduled to meet Tuesday.

Rep. Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, the nominee of House Republicans to be the next House speaker, said he expects Republican House members at their caucus meeting to nominate a speaker pro-tem.

The Alabama Law Institute, a legislative agency based in Tuscaloosa that is budgeted to spend $695,433 from the state General Fund this year, is sponsoring the orientation along with the Legislative Council, which includes Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom Jr. and 15 legislators.

Bob McCurley, director of the Law Institute, said he hopes the orientation will give lawmakers ''an opportunity to meet each other and also at the same time get a preview of the issues they'll be addressing over the next four years."

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