Rep. Jim Barton resigning to lobby, becomes latest House leader to step down

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Another key member of House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s leadership team is resigning from the House with General Fund budget chairman Jim Barton announcing on Wednesday that he was leaving to join a Montgomery lobbying firm.

Rep. Jim Barton, R-Mobile

Rep. Jim Barton, R-Mobile

Barton, R-Mobile, is joining the governmental affairs and lobbying firm Kinney Capitol Group, whose lobbying clients include the Alabama Retail Association, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, Alabama Beer Association, Alabama Dental Association, American Suntanning Association, Best Friends, the Humane Society of the United States, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Barton had told some media outlets in recent weeks that he was not resigning.

“Representing the citizens of District 104 for the past 13 years has been a great honor, and I am proud of the many legislative accomplishments my Republican colleagues and I have been able to realize since taking over the majority,” Barton said in a statement. “But as a father and husband, I have to put the needs of my family ahead of my own political ambitions, and the business opportunity that has been offered to me is one that I must pursue.”

The resignation, effective immediately, marks the latest event in an interesting year for Barton.

Barton ran for a state Senate seat earlier this year and was defeated handily by Republican businessman Bill Hightower even though Barton raised and spent more money and even though he was better known as a sitting legislator overseeing a key committee.

Barton’s departure follows the resignation of fellow state Rep. Jay Love, a Montgomery Republican who was chairman of the House education budget committee. Love stepped down Aug. 1.

Hubbard, R-Auburn, said early in this four-year term that he appointed Barton and Love as budget chairmen because of their success as small businessmen.

“Drafting a state budget with too many needs and too few resources is one of the most challenging and difficult jobs I’ve ever been given, but it has also been one of the most fulfilling,” Barton said.

Hubbard, in a statement, commended Barton for his work as budget chairman.

“Since Republicans took control of the Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction, Jim accomplished the difficult job of crafting General Fund budgets that funded essential state services without raising taxes on the citizens of Alabama,” Hubbard said. “Jim has always been an effective leader in both the Republican Caucus and the Alabama House, as a whole, and we will all miss his daily presence.”

Barton stepped back as budget chairman while running for the state Senate seat during the last legislative session with Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, assuming those duties. Hubbard quickly named Clouse chairman of the budget committee on Wednesday.

The House and Senate committees oversee the spending levels in the $1.7 billion General Fund, which includes money for Medicaid, prisons, courts and public safety.

Love and Barton, who are stepping away from two of the more powerful positions in the Legislature in the first term with Republicans in the majority, are the sixth and seventh House members to resign during this four-year term that began with the November 2010 election, but the other members have accepted appointments from Gov. Robert Bentley. One senator, Republican Ben Brooks, resigned this term after winning a judgeship in Mobile County.

Former Rep. Blaine Galliher, R-Gadsden, served as the chairman of the House Rules Committee, a powerful panel that determines which bills go before the full House for consideration, before leaving a year ago to become legislative director for Bentley.

During the previous four-year term, from 2006 to 2010, two senators and two House members resigned to accept other elected or appointed positions in government, but no members resigned to lobby or for other jobs in the private sector.

Bentley has not set a special election to replace Love or Barton, whose seats will be on the ballot again in 2014.

– posted by Sebastian Kitchen

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