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Legislature wishes Hammett ‘Happy Trails’

The clerk of the Alabama House of Representatives played “Happy Trails” yesterday just after Speaker of the House Seth Hammett adjourned the 2010 session of the legislature sine die.

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.

In his closing remarks, Hammett first thanked his family, who was seated in the House gallery.

“I want them to know how much I love them and how much I appreciate the opportunity they gave me to serve,” he said.

He also thanked the folks back home.

“I’ve always said you can’t be speaker unless you have been elected representative,” he said.

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.

“If you feel we have successfully accomplished these goals, then my tenure here has, indeed, been worthwhile,” Hammett said.

Known for his organizational skills, Hammett has often been teased about the flow chart he used to run the House.

“A number of House members, Republicans and Democrats, have come to me to say they strongly felt my ‘flow chart’ deserved to win the shroud award,” he said.

At the end of each session, House members present a coffin-shaped shroud award to the deadest bill of the session.

“At sine die my beloved chart will be dead and gone forever,” Hammett quipped, adding that not receiving the award “hurt my feelings a little bit, if you want to know the truth.”

He said he’s often asked if he has had second thoughts about his decision to leave the political arena.

“Yes, but I’ve also had confirmation,” he said.

“Unless the governor calls us back in Special Session, this will be the last time all of us will be here in this chamber,” he said. “But we should not let this be our last time together because you are my friends forever.”