- Associated Press - Monday, January 12, 2015

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - The newly elected Alabama Legislature begins its organizational session Tuesday, but the leadership will look much like the old Legislature, with indicted Rep. Mike Hubbard expected to repeat as speaker of the House.

The organizational session is for a new Legislature to elect the top member of each chamber, approve operating rules and appoint members to committee. The 2015 organizational session will be much different from four years ago, when the first Republican majority in 136 years had to build a leadership structure for the first time.

House members say they expect Hubbard to win another four-year term as speaker even though he is awaiting trial on ethics charges accusing him of using his office to benefit himself and his business. House Minority Leader Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, agrees with the prediction and said he doesn’t expect the indictment to have much influence on legislators.

“He’s still the speaker to us. We will treat him as we would want to be treated,” Ford said.

In the Senate, members expect to elect Sen. Del Marsh of Anniston to another four-year term as president pro tem. The Senate presiding officer, Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey, was already re-elected by Alabama voters in November.

The leaders of the budget committees and the agenda-setting rules committees are expected to repeat in each chamber, members said. Many other committee chairmen will also repeat because most Republican incumbents got re-elected in November.

“We started out leaving everybody in the same spot,” Marsh said.

Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed of Jasper said it’s a much different experience than four years ago.

“Before it was changing everything. Now it’s fine-tuning to make things better for the people of Alabama,” he said.

One item that will get lots of attention during the organizational session is approval of the operating rules that the House and Senate will use for the next four years. Items under discussion include amending stalling tactics. For instance, one proposal would cut the amount of time allowed for debating whether a bill should be brought up for consideration. Another would require that if a member asks to have a bill read aloud to the membership, the reading will stop if the member leaves the legislative chamber.

“If they want us to listen to the reading of the whole bill, they need to endure it with us,” Marsh said.

Senate Minority Leader Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, is concerned about possible changes being discussed by Republicans. “It doesn’t speak well of their intent to be a deliberative body,” he said.

Marsh and others said the organizational session will likely end Wednesday. Lawmakers will return March 3 for their regular session. Unlike the short organizational session, the regular session can last 15 weeks and will address the state budgets and other issues affecting the lives of Alabamians.

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Associated Press Writer Kim Chandler contributed to this report.

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