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Hammett speaks in Brewton

By By JOHN DILMORE JR. Publisher
While in Brewton last week, Alabama Speaker of the House of Representatives Seth Hammett -- D-Andalusia -- touched only briefly on the potential bypass project many in the city view as essential to future economic growth here.
The project at issue is a potential hurricane evacuation corridor for the cities of Milton and Navarre, FL. The corridor -- which would provide evacuees quicker access to I-65 -- would run through the Brewton and East Brewton areas.
This would more directly open the cities themselves to I-65, something seen as important to future business development. It would also provide a bypass route for truck traffic, which now must pass directly through the heart of town.
Hammett pledged to do whatever he can to make sure the issue is studied thoroughly.
The remainder of Hammett's presentation -- made to the Brewton Rotary Club last Monday -- was primarily a recap of the past year's legislative action in the House.
He added that it had wound up being "a pretty good session."
Hammett touted several successful legislative initiatives in the area of elections, including the establishment of uniform voting hours statewide -- from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. -- and a provision for automatic recounts in close elections.
The Speaker also mentioned the establishment of community corrections programs in many counties across the state -- including Escambia.
These programs allow non-violent offenders to, under supervision, live and work in their home communities, rather than take up space in the state's overcrowded prison system.
Still on the topic of incarceration, Hammett said that he hoped the state would have true "truth in sentencing" guidelines in place by the year 2006. This would require convicted criminals to serve their entire court-ordered sentence, rather than just a portion of the sentence followed by parole.
Speaking to the statewide cuts in public service funding which have impacted everything from the K-12 schools to the circuit court system, Hammett remarked that, "Most of the things being cut are things that really hurt people."
He said that education was going to be cut again next year, which would likely lead to reductions in school staffs statewide.
Of the court system, Hammett said, "We can't cut the court system anymore and expect it to operate."