Howard ready for swearing in

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 16, 2005

The newest member of the state’s House of Representatives is ready to go to work.

Greensboro’s Ralph A. Howard, who won election from House District 72 over Albert Turner, Jr. in a special election May 3, has already been certified by the state as the winner of the election and will be sworn in as Representative just before the final day of the state 2005 legislative session. Howard will have full voting rights and is ready to put them to use.

“I’m excited,” he said in an interview Friday. “I’m looking forward to being there and working with the entire legislative body of Alabama. I’m also looking forward to representing the interests of this district.”

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Although several issues are likely to arise during what’s expected to be a busy final day of legislating, Howard said he expects the biggest issue to be the controversial state education budget for 2005-2006. Governor Riley is expected to veto the budget passed by the legislature as being too expensive, but the legislature has the option to override the veto. That’s the option Howard says he supports.

“The biggest thing will be the education budget,” he said, calling it a “sticking point” that could hinder progress on other issues. “I believe we should fully fund our education system. That’s what needs to be done. I’ll vote to support the education budget approved by the legislature.”

The session doesn’t officially end until midnight that night, and many previous sessions have pushed that deadline. Howard says he’s not fazed at all by the possibility of burning the midnight oil to get things accomplished, and says.

“It’s something that has to be done,” he says. “Hard work is something I’m not afraid of.”

In addition, Howard says he shouldn’t have any trouble keeping his head well above water when it comes to keeping a handle on the House activity.

“I’m a new legislator,” he says, “but I’ll be working with my mentor legislator Marcel Black. He’s been in the legislature a while and he and I will be going over the issues. I might be new, but it’s not like I’ll be down there on my own.”

Howard’s last-minute inclusion is something of a rarity. Despite Gov. Riley press secretary John Matson’s assertion in January that the special election could not be completed in time to get a candidate involved in the session, Howard was able to skip the run-off and general election phases since he and Turner–both Democrats–were the only two candidates in the race.

The regulation for bypassing the other two steps of the election are laid out in state Amendment 97, a 52-year-old amendment that Secretary of State’s office official Denise Cornwell told the Times had been invoked only twice prior to Howard. Howard’s victory was certified Wednesday at 11.

While it’s been a whirlwind week-and-a-half for Howard since his election, he says he’s still been able to enjoy the positive response he says his election has generated.

“The highlight has been the people I’ve met that have called me,” he said, “not to congratulate me on my victory, but to thank me for running. I really appreciate the confidence they have in me and I’m going to work hard to make this district a better place.”