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The government of Alabama is organized under the provisions of the 1901 Constitution of Alabama, which is the lengthiest constitution of any political entity in the world. Like other states within the United States, Alabama's government is divided into executive, judicial, and legislative branches.
The Alabama Executive branch consists of the Governor of Alabama, the Lieutenant Governor of Alabama, the Governor's Cabinet, several popularly elected executive officials, and the executive staff. The Cabinet consists of the heads of 25 different departments ranging from the Chief of Staff to the head of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
The Governor is the chief executive of the state's government. He or she is responsible for upholding the Alabama Constitution and executing state law. The Governor is elected by popular election every four years. The constitution limits the governor to two consecutive terms, but there is no limit on the total number of terms one may serve, so long as no more than two are ever consecutive. George Wallace holds the record as the longest-serving governor in Alabama history with 16 years of service.
The governor also is commander-in-chief of the state's military forces, which consist of the Alabama Army National Guard and Alabama Air National Guard, which are part of the National Guard of the United States, together with the Alabama State Defense Force. As commander-in-chief, the governor may call out the state's military forces to preserve the public peace when it is not in active service of the United States. He may also call upon them to render aid during natural disasters or other times when he or she may deem their services to be required.
Like other U.S. governors, the governor of Alabama has the power to veto laws passed by the state legislature (see below). However, in contrast to the practice in most states (and the federal government) that requires the legislature to garner a two-thirds majority to override an executive veto, the Alabama constitution requires only a simple majority within both legislative houses to accomplish this. The governor also possesses the power to pardon convicted criminals, except in cases of impeachment.
At least once every legislative session, the governor is required to deliver an address to the Alabama Legislature, referred to as the "State of the State address." This address encompasses the condition and operation of the state government, and may also suggest new legislation for the legislature's consideration.
The Lieutenant Governor of Alabama is the ex-officio President of the Senate, as provided under Article V, Section 117 of the Constitution. He or she is also considered an officer of the Executive Branch under Article V, Section 112. The Lieutenant Governor is elected, by statewide vote, every four years, and must be at least 30 years of age, when elected, and must have been a citizen of the United States for 10 years, and a resident citizen of the state of Alabama for 7 years, prior to election.
The Lieutenant Governor can vote, on any matter before the Senate, only to break a tie vote. The Senate may, by Rule, grant other powers to the Lieutenant Governor, in his or her capacity as President of the Senate.
The current Lieutenant Governor of Alabama is Kay Ivey, who has served since 2011.
Along with the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor, the executive branch is composed of five other popularly elected officials, as well as the Superintendent of Education, who is chosen by the state school board:
All of the independent executive officials serve four-year terms that run concurrent with that of the Governor.
The Supreme Court of Alabama is composed of a chief justice, Roy Moore, and eight associate justices (Tommy Bryan, Lyn Stuart, Michael F. Bolin, Tom Parker, Glenn Murdock, Greg Shaw; James Allan Main, and Alisa Kelli Wise). The Clerk of Court is Robert G. Esdale, Sr. As the highest state court, the Supreme Court has both judicial and administrative responsibilities.
The Supreme Court has authority to review decisions rendered by the other courts of the state. It also has authority to determine certain legal matters over which no other court has jurisdiction, and to issue such orders as may prove necessary to carry out its general superintendence over the court system in Alabama. The Alabama Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction over all appeals where the amount in controversy exceeds $50,000, as well as appeals from the Alabama Public Service Commission.
The chief justice is the administrative head of the state's judicial system. The Supreme Court may make rules governing administration, practice, and procedure for all Alabama courts. Under this authority, uniform rules of practice and procedure and judicial administration have been adopted to eliminate many of the technicalities which cause delay in the trial courts, and needless reversals in the appellate courts.
A "Court of the Judiciary" is created under Alabama law, consisting of one judge of an appellate court (other than the Supreme Court), who shall be selected by the Supreme Court and shall serve as Chief Judge of the Court of the Judiciary. In addition, two judges of the circuit court are to be appointed to this body, who shall be selected by the Circuit Judges' Association; together with one district judge, who shall be selected by the District Judges' Association. Other members of the Court of the Judiciary are: two members of the state bar, who shall be selected by the governing body of the Alabama State Bar; three persons (as of 2005) who are not lawyers who shall be appointed by the Governor; and one person appointed by the Lieutenant Governor. Members appointed by the Governor and Lieutenant Governor shall be subject to Senate confirmation before serving.
The Court of the Judiciary is convened to hear complaints filed by the Judicial Inquiry Commission. It has authority, after notice and public hearing, to impose one of two penalties:
Like other states within the United States, Alabama has a legislative branch.
The Alabama House of Representatives is composed of 105 members, all elected from single-member districts of equal population across the state in the same cycle. Each member represents a district of approximately 40,000 people, and is elected to a four-year term. The Speaker of the House is currently Mike Hubbard, a Republican from Auburn in Lee County. The current partisan line-up of the House of Representatives is 66 Republicans, 38 Democrats and 1 Independent.
All revenue-raising matters must originate in the Alabama House. A majority of a quorum can pass any bill except a constitutional amendment, which requires a three-fifths vote of all those elected.
The Alabama Senate is composed of 35 Senators. Each Senator represents a single-member district of approximately 125,000 Alabamians.
Senators must be at least 25 years of age at the time of their election, must be citizens and residents of the state of Alabama for at least 3 years, and reside within their district for at least one year prior to election.
All Senators are elected for four-year terms in the same cycle as the House of Representatives,the Governor, and other statewide constitutional officers.
While the House of Representatives has exclusive power to originate revenue bills, such legislation can be amended and/or substituted by the Senate. Moreover, because the Senate is historically considered to be the "deliberative body", its rules concerning length of debate are more relaxed than those of the House of Representatives. The Senate also has a history of filibusters that the rules of the lower house do not as easily tolerate.
The Alabama Senate has sole power of Confirmation of certain appointees designated by the Constitution and by statute.
The Legislature convenes in regular annual sessions on the first Tuesday in February, except:
The length of the regular session is limited to 30 meeting days within a period of 105 calendar days. Generally, two meeting or "legislative" days are held per week, with other days being devoted to committee meetings. The Alabama Constitution provides that no law shall be passed except by a bill, which is a proposed law written out in the proper format. Once approved in accordance with the state constitution, the bill becomes an act.
Special sessions of the Legislature may be called by the Governor, with the Proclamation listing those subjects that the Governor wishes to be considered in that session. These sessions are limited to twelve legislative days within a thirty calendar day span. Whereas in a regular session bills may be enacted on any subject, in a special session, legislation must be enacted only on those subjects which the Governor announces in his proclamation or "call." Anything not in the "call" requires a two-thirds vote of each house to be enacted.
Constitutional amendments always require a three-fifths vote of the elected Members of each house for passage, whether in regular or special session, and this constitutional provision cannot be abrogated by any governor. Likewise, while a governor's proclamation may itemize subjects to be considered in a special session, the proclamation cannot dictate that the legislature specifically consider only a bill which mirrors the exact language of a bill offered in a previous session. The legislature may offer and consider any bills it chooses in a special session, subject to the above-stated requirements for passage (depending upon whether the subject of the bill formed part of the governor's "call", or whether it is a constitutional amendment).
Alabama's lawmaking process differs somewhat from the other 49 states.
Each bill may only pertain to one subject (which must be clearly stated in the title), "except general appropriation bills, general revenue bills, and bills adopting a code, digest, or revision of statutes".
Bills are referred to standing committees by the Lieutenant Governor and the President Pro Tempore in the Senate, and by the Speaker in the House of Representatives.
The Constitution states that each house shall determine the number of committees, and the numbers of committees vary from quadrennial session to session.
The Alabama legislature has a Legislative Council, which is a permanent or continuing interim committee, composed as follows:
The Legislative Council meets at least once quarterly to consider problems for which legislation may be needed, and to make recommendations for the next legislative session. A number of significant statutes have been placed on the Alabama law books as a result of this council's activity.
Any bill which affects state funding by more than $1,000, and which involves expenditure or collection of revenue, must have a "Fiscal Note". Fiscal Notes are prepared by the Legislative Fiscal Office and signed by the chairman of the committee reporting the bill. They must contain projected increases or decreases to state revenue in the event that the bill becomes law.
Once the bill has been discussed, each member casts his or her vote as their name is called alphabetically. Since the state's Senate is rather small, voting may be done effectively in that house via manual roll call. An electronic voting machine is utilized in the House of Representatives.
If amendments are adopted, the bill is sent to the Enrolling and Engrossing Department of that house for engrossment. Engrossment is the process of incorporating amendments into the bill before transmittal to the second house.
A conference committee is empaneled to discusses the points of difference between the two houses' versions of the same bill, and tries to reach an agreement between them so that the identical bill can be passed by both houses.
When a bill has passed both houses in identical form, it is enrolled. The "enrolled" copy is the official bill, which, after it becomes law, is kept by the Secretary of State for reference in the event of any dispute as to its exact language. The bill is then ready for transmittal to the Governor.
Once a bill reaches the governor, he or she may sign it, which completes its enactment into law. From this point, the bill becomes an act, and remains the law of the state unless repealed by legislative action, or overturned by a court decision. If the governor does not approve of the bill, he or she may veto it. In the event of a veto, the governor returns the bill to the house in which it originated, with a message explaining his objections and suggesting any amendments (if applicable) which might remove those objections. The bill is then reconsidered, and if a simple majority of the members of both houses agrees to the proposed executive amendments, it is returned to the Governor, as he revised it, for his signature.
On the other hand, a simple majority of the members of each house can choose to approve a vetoed bill precisely as the Legislature originally passed it, in which case it becomes a law over the governor's veto. This is in contrast to the practice in most states and the federal government, which require a two-thirds majority in both houses to override a governor's veto.
If the Governor fails to return a bill to the legislative house in which it originated within six days after it was presented to him or her (including Sundays), it becomes a law without their signature. This return can be prevented by recession of the Legislature. In that case the bill must be returned within two days after the legislature reassembles, or it becomes a law without the Governor's signature.
The bills that reach the Governor less than five days before the end of the session may be approved by him within ten days after adjournment. The bills not approved within that time do not become law. This is known as a "pocket veto". This is the most conclusive form of veto, for the Legislature (having adjourned) has no chance to reconsider the vetoed measure.
Alabama is one of the states in which the governor has the power to accept or reject any particular item of an appropriation bill without vetoing the entire bill. In this event, only the vetoed item of the appropriation bill is returned to the house of origin for reconsideration by the Legislature. The remainder of the bill becomes law.
Sometimes what the legislature wishes to accomplish cannot be done simply by the passage of a bill, but rather requires amending the Constitution. A bill or joint resolution is accordingly drafted to propose an appropriate amendment to the Constitution. This bill or joint resolution is introduced in the same manner as other bills and resolutions, and follows the course of ordinary bills, except that it must be read at length on three different days in each house. Furthermore, it must be passed in each house by a three-fifths vote of all the members elected, and does not require the approval of the governor. A constitutional amendment passed by the legislature is deposited directly with the Secretary of State. It is then submitted to the voters of the state at an election (the time of which is fixed by the Legislature), held not less than three months after the adjournment of the session in which the amendment was proposed. The governor announces the election by proclamation, and the proposed amendment and notice of the election must be published in every county for four successive weeks before the election. If a majority of those who vote at the election favor the amendment, it becomes a part of the Constitution. The result of the election is announced by proclamation of the governor.
Seal of the Governor-Elect of Alabama
Seal of the Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives
Seal of the Unified Judicial System of Alabama
Seal of the Attorney General of Alabama
Seal of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries
Seal of the Alabama Department of Corrections
Seal of the Alabama Department of Homeland Security
Seal of the Alabama Department of Public Health
Seal of the Alabama Department of Public Safety
Seal of the Alabama National Guard
Coat of arms of the Alabama State Defense Force