Saturday, May 3, 2008

Week of Wright, Riley, Folsom’s actions and double-dipping

(Originally published 5/3/08)

This week has been crazy. And I’m not just talking about the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his Amazing Traveling Media Circus.

Wright will be in Columbus next week to lead revival services at a local church. Part of me wants to go to see him for myself, without the filter of the ubiquitous media. But part of me wants to stop feeding the beast that is this story, because I am, after all, part of the ubiquitous media.

On Thursday, my blog formally moved to this newspaper’s Web site. It’s been a project getting all the bugs worked out. Thursday night, technical hurdles at the venue foiled my grand plans to live-blog Gov. Bob Riley’s keynote address to the Lee County Republican Party. But it was still worth the trip.

Riley closed the door on speculation that he might run for vice president with John McCain by making perhaps his strongest statement to date on the issue: “I will never run for another office,” Riley said.

“Told you,” I heard a woman murmur to another.

But Riley said he intends to remain active in the GOP’s fundraising and candidate recruitment efforts, he said, as long as it takes for Republicans to win control of state government. This week’s action on Goat Hill is evidence of why.

Legislators outdid themselves in the crazy department this week. In the Senate, Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom Jr. displayed just the most recent example of the Legislature’s disrespect for the people and laws of this state when he set aside a controversial gambling bill that had stalled that body for six weeks.

In doing so, Folsom blatantly ignored several senators who requested a recorded vote on the motion. Since it was passed on a voice vote, Alabamians will never know who supported the motion – or whether it really had enough votes to pass in the first place. Without that accountability, it amounts to nothing more than a unilateral and arbitrary action by one man – Folsom.

Here’s what I don’t get: On one hand, they wanted it to appear that they were following one rule — voting to set aside the bill — but they completely ignored another rule – the Constitutional provision guaranteeing a recorded vote.

Why go to all that trouble? It’s not like members of that chamber care about what Alabamians think, anyway.

On the House side, legislators passed a bill to override the double-dipping ban – the premier reform in Alabama’s two-year colleges – instituted by Chancellor Bradley Byrne and the State Board of Education.

The bill would clear the way for public employees who also serve in the Legislature or in other elected positions to receive two state paychecks: one from the budget of their day job, the other for writing the budget for their day job.

Five House Republicans crossed party lines to support the bill, while four House Democrats joined Republicans who opposed it. Twelve members apparently left their spines in the cloak room and voted simply, “Present.”

Some legislators have complained that the double-dipping ban unfairly excludes public employees from serving in the Legislature. But as they say in Yiddish, “Az och un vai.” Legislators – and certain very powerful lobbyists – might not like it, but Alabamians don’t particularly care for the way their elected leaders have gorged themselves at the public trough for years without shame.

On the (new!) blog this weekend: What Alabama Democratic Party chairman and superdelegate Joe Turnham is hearing behind the scenes, and the names of those who crossed the aisles in the double-dipping vote.

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