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SB11 Gives Legislative Council Ultimate Control of State House

By Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—SB11, referred to as one of “the consolidation bills,” is an exhaustive re-organization of the legislative services pertaining to the State House by amending multiple sections of the Code of Alabama 1975. The bill is a mere 45 pages, but contains some substantial shifts in responsibilities and powers. It proposes to disband five committees and consolidate them under a newly-titled committee, the Legislative Council of the State of Alabama. All aspects of the State House are proposed to be controlled by a 20-member group of Senate and House legislators, with the Speaker and the President Pro Tem at the helm.

The bill, proposed by Sen. Jimmy Holley (R-Elba), is similar to HB122 that passed the House but failed in the Senate in the 2013 Legislative Session.

Currently, SB11 has passed the Senate and is scheduled for a public hearing in the House Internal Affairs Committee on Wednesday at 11:00am in Room 420.

In short, the proposed bill, SB11:

1. Abolish five committees and brings there “powers” and resources under a House and Senate Committee of 20 legislators

2. Will take charge of all Statehouse staff including “the Legislative Reference Service (LRO), the Legislative Fiscal Office (LFO), the Alabama Law Institute, the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore” offices

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3. Create three new executive/director positions with six digit salaries

4. Shift the ALI under the new council and remove the powers of the Alabama State Bar Association from that entity

5. Restructure the Commission on Uniform State Laws and reduce them to an “advisory” function

6. Delete legislative automatic appropriation

7. Provide continuance of the position of President Pro Tempore of the Senate

8. Reroute presentation of annual budgets and statements of expenditures and projections to the council

9. Assume the power of the Building Authority including “title and control” of the Statehouse, all parking areas and any areas adjoined.”

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10. Change the position and function of the Secretary of the Senate and Clerk of the House

11.Set salaries and compensation for the LRO, LFO, ALI, Speaker’s office and Senate President Pro Tem’s office

12. Institute annual reviews for directors of the LRO, LFO, ALI, Speaker’s office, Senate President Pro Tem’s office, the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House

13. Change the creation responsibilities for ALI’s governing council from the Board of Commissioners of the Alabama Bar to the Legislative Council.

14. Restructure the members of the governing council of ALI

15. Restrict recommendations concerning “defects and anachronism” in state law given to the ALI Governing Council to the members of the Alabama Legislature and the public

The first paragraph states that it will “abolish” the House and Senate Legislative Councils, the Joint Fiscal Committee, the Legislative Building Authority and the Permanent Legislative Committee on Reapportionment “and transfer their responsibilities to a newly reconstructed Legislative Council, the Senate Legislative Council and the House Legislative Council.”

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It further states that the Legislative Council will be in charge of recommending personnel working with the Legislative Reference Service (LRO), the Legislative Fiscal Office (LFO), the Alabama Law Institute, the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore. The Council will also assume the responsibilities for determining salaries, compensations, budgeting, accounting and general administrative functions for all of the Legislative Departments including departments reporting to the Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate.

The Council will create three new positions: Executive Secretary of the Legislative Council, Director of Technology and a Director of Human Resources. All three expected to be six-figure salaries. The Executive Secretary will act as liaison for the Council and perform the administrative duties. These position of the Director of Technology will oversee and manage all electronic information and documentation pertaining to the State House and its functions. Director of Human Resources will oversee all personnel and in all departments.
The Legislative Council of the State of Alabama Structure

The proposed Legislative Council of the State of Alabama will be comprised of a newly-created House Legislative Council and a Senate Legislative Council, 10 members from the House and 10 members from the Senate for a total of 20 members.

The council membership will consist of:

House Legislative Council

Speaker of the House
House Majority Leader
House Minority Leader
Chair of the House Ways and Means General Fund
Chair of the House Ways and Means Education Committees
Two members of the House appointed by the Speaker
Two members of the House, elected by the House
One member of the House elected by the minority parties
Senate Legislative Council

President Pro Tempore of the Senate
Senate Majority Leader
Senate Minority Leader
Chair of the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund
Chair of the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committees
Two Senators appointed by the President Pro Tempore
Two members of the Senate, elected by the Senate
One member of the Senate elected by the minority parties
The President of the Senate (Lt. Governor) may be a non-voting member of the Council, only voting in case of a tie.
Annual Budgets to Go to Executive Secretary of the Legislative Council

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The Annual Budget is at present given to the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House. SB11 reroutes it to be presented to the Executive Secretary of the Legislative Council. The statement of expenditures and projected costs will be shifted from interim committee on finances and budgets to the Legislative Council.

Building Authority Will Give Over Control of State House

The Legislative Council would assume the powers and authority of the Building Authority previously consisting of three members of the Senate and three members of the House who were changed at the beginning of each legislative term.
If this bill is passed, beginning on October 1, 2014, the Legislative Council would accept title to the State House property and as a result “management and supervision, administration, improvement, equipping, operation, and maintenance” of the property.

The bill specifies this property to be “bordered by Union Street, McDowell Lee Lane, Ripley Street, and Washington Avenue and the building, parking deck, and improvements located thereon.” The Legislative Council will take immediate control of oversight over daily functions of the State House, including the allocation of space and security.

Changes to the Position and Function of the Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate

Changes to Section 29-4-20 readjusts the chain of command in both the Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate positions.

Currently, the Secretary of the Senate and the Assistant Secretary of the Senate are the subordinates of the Senate. As well, the Clerk of the House and the Assistant Clerk of the House are subordinates of the House. Compensation for the Secretary of the Senate is determined by only the elected members of Senate Legislative Council at their organizational session. Compensation for the Clerk of the House is determined by all members of the House Legislative Council.

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Under the new law, the offices’ compensations will be reviewed and determined by their respective Legislative Councils, consisting of both elected and appointed members.

Under current law, both the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House, after serving for nine successive years, attain “continuing service status” and can only be removed from office by a majority vote of their respective legislative bodies. This language is proposed to be deleted and replaced by language stating that both offices “may be removed for cause by their respective councils.”

While employees of both houses will still be under the control of that body’s office, their regulation will be controlled by the Legislative Councils.

First Orders of Business

The Legislative Council will assume the responsibility for personnel, accounting and purchasing.

Working with the directors, the Legislative Council will “establish the salary schedules and other issues related to compensation for employees of the LRO, LFO, ALI, Speaker’s office and Senate President Pro Tem’s office.”

Employees will still be under the immediate direction and control of the department directors but the Council will be the final authority on all matters concerning the employees.

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Changes in the Alabama Law Institute

Possibly, the department most drastically changed would be The Alabama Law Institute. It is proposed to become a “part of the Legislative Department,” and “would transfer powers previously granted to the Alabama State Bar to the department.”

It will direct the members, officers and committees. Members will serve four-year terms. The director will be a Legislative Council appointee.

Changes to the Governing Council of the Alabama Law Institute are as follows:

The members to be removed are:

One judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals
One judge of the Court of Civil Appeals
One federal judge residing in Alabama
Dean of the University of Alabama School of Law
Dean of the Cumberland School of Law of Samford University
Dean of each privately operated law school in the state whose students are admitted to the state bar
Dean of the Miles College Law School
President and Secretary of the Alabama Law Institute
Director of the Continuing Legal Education Program
All elected members of the American Law Institute

Members Remaining:

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One justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama, selected by the justices
One circuit court judge, selected by the Association of Circuit Court Judges
The Attorney General
The legal advisor to the Governor
The Chairs of the Judiciary Committees of both houses.
The President of the State Bar
Secretary of the Alabama State Bar
The chair of the junior bar
The attorney members of the Legislative Council of Alabama
Secretary of the Legislative Council
Not less than three or more than six attorneys appointed by the Governor
Two members elected from the members of the faculty of the University of Alabama, Cumberland, Thomas Goode Jones at Faulkner University schools of law and six practicing attorneys elected from each congressional district in the state.

New Members:

1. The Code Commissioner
2. The Speaker of the House
3. The President Pro Tem
4. Two members of the faculty of the Thomas Goode Jones School of Law at Faulkner University

Allows for designees to:

The Attorney General
The legal advisor to the Governor
The Speaker of the House
The President Pro Tem

No longer will the Governing Council receive and consider “defects and anachronisms” in the law from judges, justices, public officials and lawyers but only from the members of the Alabama Legislature and the general public.

Under current law, the studies and reports of the ALI are printed and distributed by the Secretary of State “in the same manner as acts of the Legislature.” This bill proposes to delete that language and direct that those studies and reports be submitted “to the Legislature through the president.”

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Continuance of the Office of the President Pro Tempore of the Senate

Currently, there are concerns about the term of the President Pro Tempore of the Senate that the code does not address. There is a gap at the end of a quadrennium between the November election and the beginning of the next legislative session.

Right now, should a President Pro Temp be reelected to office they do not technically hold this position until the election at the beginning of the next quadrennium. Under SB11, a sitting President Pro Tempore who is reelected shall continue until a successor can be elected.

If a sitting President Pro Temp is defeated in an election, who takes on the responsibilities of the office until a new member can be elected? Another concern is should a sitting President Pro Temp need to leave office prematurely who would fulfill the duties of the office? Under the proposed bill, with the approval of the Senate Legislative Council, the Secretary of the Senate will fulfill those duties until a successor can be elected.

Commission on Uniform State Laws

The Commission will remain but only in as “an advisory commission to the Legislature.”
The proposed commission would be made up of:
Three members of the bar appointed by the Governor
A member of the Senate appointed by the President of the Senate
A member of the House of Representatives appointed by the Speaker
Director of the Alabama Law Institute
Director of the Legislative Reference Service

Removed from the Commission would be:

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Any resident of this State who, because of long service in the cause of the uniformity of State legislation, has been elected a life member of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws.
Any person who while a member attended 10 or more annual meetings of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws.
Any resident of the State who is serving or has served as Executive Director of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws.

Possible Ramifications of SB11

Council will be able to:

  • Institute salary decreases/increases for all directors and employees who work at the State House
  • Control over who can access the State House, who can use the parking lots and who can have access to the State House lawn including who is granted press credentials and lobbying credentials
  • Control over who is hired and who is fired among State House staff and directors
  • Control over all contracts pertaining to the maintenance of the State House
  • Control over the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House possibility removing their autonomy
  • Control over budgets both Statewide and internal to the State House
  • Dramatically reconstructs membership in both the Alabama Law Institute and the Uniform State Law commission

 

Susan Britt
Written By

DIG DEEPER

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