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Alabama GOP Restricts Constituent Access to Lawmakers

Citing security concerns in the wake of the shootings in Tucson, Ariz., new Republicans leaders in the Alabama state legislature are reportedly planning to restrict the public's access to legislators' offices.

According to the Montgomery Advertiser, House Speaker Mike Hubbard and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh announced Monday that the public would no longer be able to drop into legislators' offices on days when the legislature is in session.

Hubbard and Marsh said restricting access to legislators' offices is being done because more security is needed at the Legislature after the Jan. 8 rampage in Tucson that wounded 13, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and killed six others, including a federal judge.

"After Tucson and that situation, we have a legitimate reason to look at the safety of our members," Hubbard said.

Hubbard said changes also stem from a large group blocking the door to a legislator's office in December when he needed to get to the House chamber to vote. He would not identify the legislator or the group.

In the past, visitors to the state capitol would pass through metal detectors, but then were free to visit any legislator's office.  Many large groups of constituents -- including students, business owners and lobbyists -- often drop in to members' offices unannounced during visits to the capitol.

But Marsh says the traditional visitations were often disruptive and chaotic.  "It would be more orderly if they were to come and ask for an appointment, and be allowed to come to the back to see either myself or any of the other senators or House members," he said.

But some have criticized the new security measure, arguing it directly conflicts with Republicans' promises of increased transparency when they were elected.  Paul Hubbert, executive secretary of the Alabama Education Association, told the Advertiser that it appeared as if the GOP was "closing government down."

"It doesn't sound like there is going to be much transparency," Hubbert said.

h/t Kathy

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