Monday, September 17, 2007

Alabama Senate becoming difficult to keep up with

(Published 5/23/07)

If you’re anything like me, you’re having a hard time understanding what’s going on in the Alabama Senate.

Let’s review: the Alabama Senate is mired in the legislative version of molasses in January, just as it has been since the beginning of session. It seems that the 18 Democrats who managed a majority and organized the Senate produced a set of rules that the 12 Republicans and five Democrats on the minority side just can’t live with.

Among the rule changes are provisions that would allow the majority to force votes on redistricting and limit debate on budgets to 30 minutes per side. And, as one legislator observed, you don’t carry ammunition unless you plan on doing a little hunting.

So those on the short end have refused to allow anything to pass the Senate, with the exceptions of a few, crucial bills, like funding to rebuild Enterprise High School, economic incentives for ThyssenKrupp and - oh, yes, that all-important legislative pay raise.

Which brings us to this week ...

Rumors abound in Montgomery about efforts to forge some sort of compromise that would allow the budgets to pass. If they don’t pass, everyone will gather again in Montgomery this summer for what is sure to be another round of congenial fun.

One political blog pointed out over the weekend that although the majority side does hold 18 votes, 2000 U.S. Census data shows that senators on the minority side represent 50.73 percent of Alabamians.

I have heard people say things like, "To the victor go the spoils," and so forth. What you think about the stalemate in the Senate depends largely on your philosophy of leadership, i.e., whether you believe that landslide elections create mandates, etc.

But no matter the philosophy behind the argument, the point here is not who represents more Alabamians, who has 18 votes in the Senate, who has what "responsibilities" and who is "standing on principle." The bottom line is that, whatever the reason, 100 percent of Alabamians have a dysfunctional Senate.

I used to work in the Florida Legislature, so I’m no stranger to politics and how it’s played. But I have little tolerance for the unique sort of stubbornness that permeates the Alabama Senate.

Either these grown men and women have no idea how to work with each other - and that’s a scary thought, considering they are supposed to be the more "deliberative body" and are charged with making laws governing the rest of us - or they simply don’t care enough about the people of Alabama to try. In either event, what is left is a state that is miserably underserved by 35 people drunk with hubris.

In addition to the good policy that will be lost if the Senate can’t get to work - like PAC-to-PAC reform - local bills of all kinds hang in the balance, including three bills that would allow the people of Lee County to vote on additional money for education.

If the Alabama Senate ends up in special session this summer, I challenge every resident of this state to write himself the following note and keep it on the refrigerator until the next election:

"Throw the bums out."

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