One of Alabama's longest serving legislators, former Democratic state Senate President Pro Tem Hinton Mitchem of Union Grove, has died. He was 74.
Direct Communications President Rick Heartsill, a friend of Mitchem, says the former senator died Tuesday after a long illness.
Mitchem was a longtime tractor dealer in Albertville. He was first elected to the Albertville City Council in 1968 and then to the state House of Representatives in 1974. After serving four years in the House, he was elected to the Senate in 1978 and in 1982.
Participants in a Statehouse summit meeting have agreed that preventing and reacting to incidents like the Connecticut elementary school shooting will be the top priority for the Alabama Legislature in the regular session that begins Feb. 5.
That was the consensus among speakers Wednesday at a meeting of lawmakers, law enforcement officers and educators at the Alabama Statehouse.
The meeting was called by House and Senate leaders to discuss the issue following the shooting last month that killed 26 at a Connecticut elementary school.
Alabama's agriculture department is reworking a proposed $288,000 consulting contract. Agriculture officials on Thursday pulled the item from the agenda of the Legislative Contract Review Committee. Commissioner John McMillan said he wanted to rework the contract's terms and expand its description. The committee's agenda had included a two-year, $288,000 deal with lobbyist and former state Rep. Noopie Cosby Jr. The contract requires him to create significant agriculture product exporting and rural development programs, among other duties, for McMillan.
Another Democrat in the Alabama Legislature has switched to the Republican Party. Sen. Jerry Fielding of Talladega County announced Thursday that he's joining the Republican Party. His switch gives the Senate 23 Republicans, 11 Democrats and one independent. The Republican Party has been picking up party switchers since it took control of the Legislature in the November 2010 election. Four Democratic representatives switched shortly after the election: Steve Hurst of Munford, Alan Boothe of Troy, Lesley Vance of Phenix City, and Mike Millican of Hamilton.
Two state legislators say they will introduce a bill in the Legislature that allows local school boards to set start and stop dates for the school year in their systems.
The bill by Republican Sen. Bill Holtzclaw of Madison and GOP Rep. Paul DeMarco of Homewood is being pre-filed this week. It would change a law passed by lawmakers this year that requires the first day of school be no earlier than the Monday two weeks before Labor Day and the last day be no later than the Friday before Memorial Day.
The Alabama Legislature's black caucus has filed a lawsuit against the plan passed by the Republican-controlled House and Senate to redraw lawmakers' districts. The Legislature's 33 black members claim the redistricting plan approved by lawmakers earlier this year is racial gerrymandering and reduces the voting influence of blacks by packing black residents into as few districts as possible. The lawsuit was filed Friday morning in federal district court in Montgomery.