Incumbency is hard to overcome

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 15, 2003

The Alabama Legislature convened this week for an organizational session.

During this meeting the Senate will elect a president Pro Tempore and the House of Representatives will elect a Speaker.

The Speaker is the title given to the presiding officer in the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tem of the Senate is the Senator who presides in the absence of the Lieutenant Governor.

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Until four years ago, the position of President Pro Tem was mostly honorary but during this last quadrennium this post became much more important.

Traditionally in Alabama the Lieutenant Governor, who presides over the Senate, appointed all committee chairs, assigned all bills and otherwise exercised the important duties within the upper chamber.

However, when Steve Windom was elected as the first Republican Lieutenant Governor of our state, the Democratically controlled Senate decided to strip him of his basic powers.

During the past four years, the authority to appoint committee chairs, assign bills and act on gubernatorial nominations has been primarily in the hands of the President Pro Tem.

This post has been held by Senator Lowell Barron from North Alabama and he is seeking re-election to the position.

Several weeks ago, a number of Senators asked me to be a candidate for the Pro Tem post, and I agreed to do so.

That election will be decided this week, but it appears that Senator Barron has the support he needs to retain his title.

It has been an interesting experience for me.

I have had the support of Governor-elect Bob Riley, and most of the editorials in the major state newspapers have likewise called for a change in Senate leadership.

However, the factor of incumbency is very difficult to overcome and Senator Barron has worked well with many members of the Senate.

Lieutenant Governor-elect Lucy Baxley has been urging senators supporting both Pro Tem candidates to grant her more authority than was given to Lieutenant Governor Windom.

She may well be in the &uot;driver’s seat&uot; to get this power because each side is actively seeking her personal support of their team.

One of the key issues involved in the Pro Tem contest is, at least to me, very clear.

Those Senators supporting me have agreed to give Governor Riley’s proposals a fair and full hearing, whereas the Barron team is seeking to be an obstructionist.

I have spoken with Governor Riley several times and I am fully persuaded that he is going to offer some bold proposals with respect to moving Alabama forward.

I think it is only fair that he get a chance to resolve some of the problems that have held us back as a state for so many decades.

I am committed to seeing that Governor Riley has an opportunity to solve our problems, and to the extent that legislation is required, I feel the Alabama Senate needs to be cooperative with him.

The inauguration of the Governor is next Monday, January 20, and it should be a very special occasion.

Governor Riley has appointed some outstanding individuals to cabinet posts and he appears to be committed to getting the best talent he can to run our state.

I am looking forward to serving with him.

Until next time, remember &uot;I’ll go with you or I’ll go for you&uot; to help you solve any problem related to government.

Senator Wendell Mitchell can be reached at 334-242-7883, or by writing to P O Box 225, Luverne, Alabama 36049.