Mitchell ready to move on

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 16, 2003

The familiar machinery of state politics has once again roared to life as the Legislature joins a political landscape marked by the aftermath of the closest gubernatorial election in Alabama history and a battle for control of the Alabama Senate.

State Senator Wendell Mitchell (D - Luverne) was not successful in his bid to become the head of the Senate, but he said he is prepared to begin the tricky work of governing and getting to know the new governor.

&uot;I got 16 votes but needed 18,&uot; Mitchell said of his attempt to unseat Sen.Lowell Barron (D - Fyffe) as Senate President Pro Tem. &uot;I just came up two short. We had an opportunity to prevail but a couple of Senators changed their minds at the last minute.&uot;

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Though Mitchell had the backing of Gov. Bob Riley and the handful of Senate Republicans, Barron fended off the challenge and has publicly claimed to have made amends with Riley. As to whether Barron will do the same with Mitchell remains to be seen. According to Mitchell, no retaliation has been declared, but if it were to be come, he said, it would be in the form of controlling the committee assignments. Mitchell, who represents Autauga, Butler, Crenshaw, Elmore, Lowndes and Pike counties, is currently the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Business and Labor.

Decisions about committees for the Senate will be made when the Senate reconvenes on Jan. 21 and Mitchell was unwilling to offer speculation about how the final outcome would be structured. He was also hesitant to speculate about the content of any upcoming bills or policy initiatives.

&uot;Members of the Legislature have been so preoccupied,&uot; he said. &uot;I don't think any bills have been drafted. It would be premature to speculate on issues at this time.&uot;

Although the Alabama Legislature adjourned Wednesday without passing a pay raise for legislators, according to Mitchell, pay raises could be still be approved during next part of the organizational session.

&uot;I've not seen any proposal. I wouldn't support a pay raise, but there might need to be some adjustment in the expense allowance,&uot; Mitchell said. &uot;Legislators get $20 less than state employees get, but I'm not promoting that nor supporting that.&uot;

According to Mitchell, legislators have to pay all expenses aside from the costs of a secretary

&uot;We buy our own stamps and pay our own mileage when we travel through the district. We pay our own long distance telephone calls. I stay in Luverne and commute, but some legislators have hotel bills and pay for three meals a day,&uot; he said.