Bingo bill dead
By By Michele Gerlach
The Alabama Legislature closed its regular session Thursday, without passing a bingo bill but with a revised measure to help shore up the struggling PACT program.
The House also said goodbye to longtime Speaker Seth Hammett, D-Andalusia, who is retiring.
The clerk of the House played “Happy Trails” Thursday just after Hammett adjourned the session.
Unless Gov. Bob Riley calls the Legislature into special session – which is neither expected nor likely in an election year – Thursday marked the last day Hammett will preside over a House session as speaker, although he will continue to hold the office until a new speaker is elected in January 2011.
Hammett, who has represented Covington County in the Legislature for 32 years, is not seeking re-election this year.
Expressing his appreciation to the members of the Legislature who elected him speaker, Hammett said, “When I was first elected speaker, I had three goals I wanted to accomplish: to bring order and predictability to our work in the people’s House, to treat everyone in this chamber with respect, and to make sure I was fair to all so each of you had every opportunity to best represent those who elected you.
Hammett said he’s often asked if he has had second thoughts about his decision to leave the political arena.
In its final day Thursday, the House did not vote on a measure that would put an amendment on the ballot in November to allow Alabamians to vote on whether electronic bingo should be taxed and regulated.
The House and Senate did pass an amendment to a bill designed to shore up the struggling Prepaid Affordable College Tuition program.
Riley worked with lawmakers in the House much of the day to get the amendment passed, pointing out that his amendment to the bill fixed a tax flaw in the original bill.