Bills

Bill would end opposition’s ability to have bills read at length | Lawrence County

MONTGOMERY — A Republican member of the Alabama House wants to do away with lawmakers’ ability to have bills read at length on chamber floors, a procedure largely used by opposition to express their displeasure and kill time.

Rep. Dickie Drake, R-Leeds, has pre-filed for the 2018 legislative session a bill that would end the requirement that bills be read out loud. Because House Bill 11 calls for a constitutional amendment, the move would have to be approved by Alabama votes.

Currently, the state’s 1901 Constitution says “no bill shall become a law, unless on its final passage it be read at length … .”

But in practice, the only time bills are read is when a representative or senator requests it be done. Only that member can then stop the reading, which can take hours.

In May, House Democrats had several bills read aloud, including the more than 500-page legislation redrawing of House district lines — lines Democrats said were unfair to minority voters. The reading took about 16 hours and two legislative days. For the Senate redistricting bill, reading took about 10 hours.

But Drake said he’s not trying to punish the minority party by killing the readings.

“I’m not trying to take it away from anyone,” he said. “I don’t want Republicans to use it.

“In 1901, they only had one copy of the bill, and bills had to be read. Now, I can get any bill on my iPhone or laptop. I think it’s a waste of time. We’re down there to pass legislation. We can’t pass any legislation if we’re sitting there listening to bills.”

House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, D-Madison, said he will oppose Drake’s bill. Daniels said Democrats use the reading procedure to force deliberations with the Republican majority in the House.

“It’s an effective tool,” he said. “Yeah, it’s an aggravating tool, but it’s one we use to force negotiations … We will not be run over.”

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