Jones: New rules leave more time for debate

Published 2:33 am Friday, January 11, 2019

Changes made to Alabama House of Representatives rules during the body’s organizational session earlier this week actually leave more time for deliberation of proposed bills, Andalusia’s Rep. Mike Jones said Thursday.

Jones, who chairs the agenda-setting Rules Committee in the House, said headlines that said Republicans wanted to limit debate were misleading. The new rules limit to one hour the amount of time that can be spent debating the special order calendar – which determines what bills make it to the House floor and is set by Jones and the Rules Committee. It does not limit the time legislators can spend debating actual proposed legislation, he said.

Under the old rules, members could speak for up to two hours on the special order.

“The calendar only comes from the Rules Committee,” Jones said, adding that it is issued in advance so that members know the agenda.

“No member can set the agenda,” he said.

Democrats, who only hold 28 of the 105 seats in the House, argued against the changes.

The rules as adopted also allow the Speaker to speed up the time for readings of bills at length, and give the Speaker discretion to remove members judged to be in “breach of the peace.”

Jones said that rule is reasonable, and actually restricts the parameters of what a speaker can do in a situation. A legislator in “breach of the peace” can only be forced to leave the house chambers for one day, he said.

“That’s only in the most extreme circumstance.”

The legislature will convene in March, when infrastructure improvement is expected to be the focus.