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Day 1 for the new kid in the Legislature

Published 4:53pm Friday, February 21, 2014

What’s it like to enter the Legislature for the first time midway through the session? Alabama’s newest freshman lawmaker, State Rep. Mike Holmes of Wetumpka, shared a few insights from his first days since winning House District 31 in a runoff.

The new kid in high school usually has to worry about where to sit in the cafeteria, but Holmes said he was immediately welcomed to the House of Representatives by Goat Hill’s big man on campus, House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn).

Hubbard’s staff was “very professional, friendly and helpful” while reviewing a timeline prepared to orient him to life in the Legislature, he said. They presented him with his first committee assignments, Military and Veterans Affairs and Technology and Research.

The speaker noted committees are doled out every four years, Holmes said, so he’ll soon have another choice. His business background and full-throated support from the Farmer’s Federation would seem to hint at something agribusiness-related.

Hubbard’s staff led him through the various support departments at the Statehouse, introducing him to staff members and explaining the ways each office could help him out.

“Then I was whisked off to weekly Republican Caucus luncheon as special guest of Speaker Hubbard, where I was introduced to the members and received a warm welcome,” Holmes said.

Holmes was officially sworn in on the House floor Feb. 6. He laid his hand on an old family Bible held by Shirley, his wife of 50 years. His brother Steve and Shirley’s cousin Darlene Hutchinson Biehl were also on hand, he said.

His first day included a joint session of the Legislature, when House members were joined by the Senate for a special military appreciation ceremony. A number of active duty personnel spoke, including four-star Gen. Dennis Via of the Army Materiel Command at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville. Lawmakers also extended posthumous honors to a recent Medal of Honor winner, with his medal on display.

The balance of Holmes’ first week was full of the usual chores of a new job: Moving into his office, continuing orientation into the nitty-gritty of legislative life and research into the bills and issues looming for debate by lawmakers.

Holmes said he spent some time in “the district” – i.e. here – last week meeting with constituents to discuss energy challenges and opportunities. He experienced “several drawn-out filibuster/debate” episodes, but was pleased to see House members complete the day’s special order calendar despite the delays. His first committee meeting with Military and Veterans Affairs was last Wednesday, he said.

“From here it will be more of the same, with lots of constituents and lobbyists steadily weighing in on bills I’m involved in, and they have a stake in,” Holmes wrote.

Holmes said it was a “very challenging” few days, with “lots to learn in a short period of time.” All the same though, it was “exhilarating,” and he expressed satisfaction to see good things happening “working closely with smart, like-minded professionals.”

 

David Goodwin writes a regular column for The Wetumpka Herald. Contact him at david.goodwin@alexcityoutlook.com.

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