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State Democratic legislators form coalition, reveal covenant

By Desiree Hunter
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Democratic leaders revealed a 'Covenant for the Future' Tuesday with issues they plan to introduce during the 2007 legislative session, but critics say many of the proposals, such as banning PAC to PAC transfers, have been killed by Democrats in past sessions.

Democratic House Speaker Seth Hammett, D-Andalusia, also announced that the party's House and Senate leaders have formed a new coalition called the Alabama Legislative Democratic Leadership Council, or ALDLC.

Hammett, flanked by representatives from both caucuses, spoke during a Montgomery news conference — the first in an all-day tour that included stops in Mobile, Birmingham and Huntsville.

"The people in this room and have agreed to bring these items to a vote in the next regular session in the Alabama legislature," Hammett said. "Democratic lawmakers are standing together in a united effort to move our state forward. This covenant is our promise to the people for a better tomorrow. These are our priorities and I'm confident we can make it happen."

In addition to banning transfers between political action committees, the covenant also includes calls for eliminating sales tax on groceries, passing an amendment saying life begins at conception, requiring public schools to offer Bible literacy curriculum, passage of the Alabama Border Protection Act and creation of a scholarship program for medical students.

House Minority leader Rep. Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, issued a scathing response to the Democratic initiative Tuesday, calling it the "worst case of political plagiarism in Alabama history."

"In session after session, Republicans introduced most of the bills the Democrats now claim to support in areas like illegal immigration, property tax reappraisals and tax cuts," Hubbard said in the statement. "And in session after session the Democrats killed them all. The inaction of the Democrat leadership on these issues speaks much louder than their cheap words."

Senate majority leader Zeb Little, D-Cullman, acknowledged that Senate Democrats have missed the opportunity to take action on PAC transfers in the past, but said they won't let that happen again.

"Two years ago the House passed a bill to ban PAC to PAC transfers," he said. "The Senate got it out of committee and made it even stronger, but unfortunately the bill was not able to get on the calendar and be passed. But I think with this commitment we will pass that bill next year."

A House-passed bill banning PAC to PAC transfers also died on the Senate calendar during this year's session.

Both Hammett and Little face opposition in the Nov. 7 general election to retain their seats, but said Tuesday's tour, which offered few specifics, was not a ploy to get them re-elected or to retain the Democratic majority in the House and the Senate. Democrats have a 62-43 majority in the House and 25-10 in the Senate.

"This is not about us being re-elected, this is about explaining to the people of Alabama what we stand for," Hammett said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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