MONTGOMERY Rep. Connie Cooner Rowe, R-Jasper, saw her Wednesday morning start off as hectic as most days during the legislative session with a public hearing on a bill which would make it optional to get a permit to carry a concealed …
MONTGOMERY Rep. Connie Cooner Rowe, R-Jasper, saw her Wednesday morning start off as hectic as most days during the legislative session with a public hearing on a bill which would make it optional to get a permit to carry a concealed handgun.
Rowe, a member of the House Public Safety Committee, was in the Capitol Auditorium for the hearing instead of a typical meeting room in the State House due to the size of the audience.
“We heard from both sides, and we will bring this up in committee to see where it goes,” Rowe told the Daily Mountain Eagle later on Wednesday. “It was the start of another wild day in the Alabama Legislature.”
Rowe, who is serving in her first term in the House, said her perception of what lawmakers did was “off base” before she arrived in Montgomery as a legislator.
“I thought they cruised down to Montgomery, went into the chamber, sat down, punched some buttons on how you feel and then load up and come home,” she said. “It is just not that way. Even thought it is not that way, it really depends how engaged you are in the process. I have chosen to be engaged, so for me, it is the craziest schedule.”
Rep. Tim Wadsworth, R-Arley, said the days sometimes are long and hectic.
He started his Wednesday morning at a roundtable discussion with other lawmakers concerning driverless vehicles, saying it is currently not legal to operate a driverless vehicle in the state, but some automobile manufacturers want to start testing them.
“Today is a committee day, so we are going from place to place,” Wadsworth said. “It is also a day that gives us a chance to talk with people a little bit more.”
Just before being interviewed by the Daily Mountain Eagle, Wadsworth had been speaking with Stacy George, a state corrections officer, who has already announced he will be running for governor in 2018.
As lawmakers continuously move throughout the State House to meetings, other lawmakers, constituents or lobbyists come up to them to talk about different bills constantly.
“You can’t get from Point A to Point B without someone wanting to talk about a bill,” Rowe said. “It is important that you have your head wrapped around why this particular bill is a significant issue to them.”
A major change for the 2017 session in the House was the shakeup at the speaker position with Rep. Mac McCutcheon (R-Huntsville) taking over that spot.
“The speaker change has made a world of difference,” Wadsworth said. “The new speaker has been great.”
As a member of the House Rules Committee, Rowe said she has seen the difference first-hand.
“Our new speaker likes to clear that calendar, which is good,” she said. “We try to run just as far down that list as we can go. That has made us stay late on Tuesday nights, but we get through a lot of bills.”
Wadsworth, who represents portions of Walker, Winston and Jefferson counties in District 14, currently serves on four committees, including Children and Senior Advocacy, Local Legislation, Jefferson County Legislation and State Government (vice chair).
“People don’t trust the state government to do what is right,” Wadsworth said. “We’ve had so many scandals and issues come up in recent years that we are going to have to work hard to let the people of our districts know they can have confidence in us.”
Rowe, who represents portions of Walker and Blount counties in District 13, currently serves on three committees, including Public Safety and Homeland Security, Children and Senior Advocacy and Rules. Rowe also serves as the chairperson for the Department of Human Resources Task Force and has a seat on the gaming advisory council.
“I think your district is only as relevant in the state conversations as you are in Montgomery, so I choose to really engage,” Rowe said. “If you are relevant, you have a seat at the table.”