Local bills die in state Senate

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Two local Shelby County bills died in the Alabama Senate last week.

A bill to eliminate the position of constable in Shelby County and a bill to create the Shelby County Community Corrections died after failing to be recognized in the Senate.

Senators representing Shelby County, Hank Erwin, Jabo Waggoner and Steve French signed off on the bill to remove it from local committee, but a fight and adjournment on the Senate floor eliminated those bills’ chances to come to a vote of the full Senate.

The Legislature is only in session one more day, May 16. Had the bills been recognized, read for a second time and placed on the calendar, the full Senate would have had the opportunity to vote that day.

&uot;We’ve got to stay in session as long as it takes to get a budget,&uot; said Republican Sen. Steve French. &uot;While we’re doing that, we’ll be clearing the deck for a number of things, among those, a lot of local bills.&uot;

Rep. Mike Hill (R-Columbiana) expressed his disappointment.

&uot;It’s frustrating. There are 35 egos at play up there, and they’ve cost us our local bills,&uot; Hill said.

Hill sponsored the community corrections bill, which was called for by the Shelby County Commission.

The Community Corrections bill, which combined the county’s drug unit with work release, was a latecomer to the process, he said; but &uot;other bills sat up there forever.&uot;

Alabama senators were locked in a heated battle over an issue having to do with the Christian Coalition for about a month. During that filibuster, the House continued work as usual but virtually all other legislation was put on hold in the Senate.

Shelby County’s bills were victims of that filibuster.

The bill to eliminate the office of constable was a joint effort between the police chiefs of the county, the sheriff’s department, the district attorney’s office and the circuit clerk’s office.

It was introduced early in the session by Rep. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster).

&uot;He had that in there (passed by the House and send to the Senate) a long time ago,&uot; Hill said.

Previous media reports indicated Ward introduced HB630 early, hoping it would be taken care of and avoid the bottleneck of budget time each year.

The county currently has 11 constables.

Ward cited no formal training, no drug screening and no periodic evaluations as reasons to eliminate the elected office.

&uot;All that money wasted. All that time wasted,&uot; Ward said, expressing his disappointment as well.

Both bills were advertised in the Reporter at a cost of $245.92 for the constable elimination and $988.32 for the community corrections.

Hill said should the bills be re-introduced for a second time, the advertising process would have to begin again, a process that is directly funded by the taxpayer, he said.

&uot;Now, we start again,&uot; he said, indicating the process had indeed begun for the Community Corrections bill, &uot;just in case there is a special session.&uot;

The bill to eliminate the office of constable, however, is in question.

&uot;I just don’t know whether he’ll introduce that one again,&uot; Hill said.

Sheriff Chris Curry, who along with Circuit Clerk Mary Harris, District Attorney Robby Owens and Calera Police Chief Jim Finn supported the constable elimination bill, said they have not given any thought to re-introducing the bill.

&uot;The action was the result of a consensus that the position was not needed,&uot; he said. &uot;In the future, we’ll have to determine if that consensus still exists.&uot;

Sen. Hank Erwin could not be reached for comment