At the State House this Week…

As the Policy Director for Conservation Alabama, Jeff Martin learns about State House issues firsthand.  Check back here every Friday for his commentary on what’ s going on in Montgomery.

The Alabama Legislature convened for the start of the 2009 legislative session on Tuesday. A package of energy bills was introduced by the Joint Legislative Committee on Energy. Thursday, a number of those bills were approved by various House committees and are now ready for debate on the House floor. They are as follows:

• HB185 (Thomas Jackson), would establish a Green Fleets program for state vehicles.

• HB186 (Mark Keahey), ethyl alcohol could be used as an alternative fuel.

• HB189 (Greg Wren), establishes the ‘permanent’ Joint Legislative Committee on Energy Policy.

• HB191 (Frank McDaniel), life cycle costing considered in determining lowest possible bids dealing with state property.

• HB192 (Frank McDaniel), life cycle costing considered in the purchasing of state motor vehicles.

• HB194 (Betty Carol Graham), establishes the Alabama Public Interest Energy Research and Development Grants Program. Also approved by a House committee this week was HB165 by Cam Ward. This bill would establish a Transportation Commission for the Department of Transportation.

Other happenings this week in the state legislature:

The unexpected and saddening death of seven-term Senator Pat Lindsey (D-Butler), the guilty verdict of Senator E.B. McClain (D-Birmingham) on money laundering, mail fraud, bribery and conspiracy charges and the election of Senator Parker Griffith (D-Huntsville) to Congress, left the Democrats short three members in the Alabama Senate. Lacking the three votes didn’t prevent Senator Rodger Smitherman from becoming the new Senate pro tem for the final two years of the quadrennium. In a deal struck two years ago, it was agreed among the Democratic Caucus that Senate pro tem Hinton Mitchem (D-Guntersville) would serve two years and then step down allowing Sen. Smitherman to be elected pro tem. Sen. Smitherman was elected on Thursday by a vote of 18-12. 

Also, as part of the agreement, Senator Myron Penn (D-Union Springs) stepped down as chairman of the Confirmations committee (but will become the vice chair) and was appointed chair of the Judiciary committee, formerly held by Sen. Smitherman. Sen. Mitchem became chair of Confirmations. Senator Tom Butler (D-Huntsville) received many new committee assignments for leaving the Republican caucus and casting his vote for pro tem with the Democrats.

Next week, the full House is expected to debate the package of energy bills


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