Legislative session is status quo

Published 4:36 pm Wednesday, May 2, 2007

By Staff
In observing the ebb and flow of the Legislature during this first session of this four-year cycle, it occurs to me that things are very much status quo and basically a mirror image of the previous quadrennium. It is pretty much the same song, second verse.
The House works in precision predictable form like a fine tuned luxury automobile. The undeterred Speaker Seth Hammett sits perched in the chair orchestrating the machinations of the House like a maestro conductor. Hammett in his 29th year in the House and his record ninth year as Speaker has his ship in order. Hammett is deliberate, methodical and very organized.
A stroll up to the sixth floor home of the Senate reveals quite a different show. The scene is basically the same as it has been for the past eight years. It reminds you of the famous line from an Abbott and Costello comedy, &#8220Who's On First.” There is constant disarray and arguments. The slim 18-17 majority is always obvious. The tension and discord make for good humor but little productivity.
The new Pro Tem Hinton Mitchem is doing a good job under the circumstances. Mitchem is well liked and respected. He has been in the Senate for more than 30 years. He knows the ropes. He is amiable and mild mannered, a master compromiser. He is a conciliator. The Democrats could not have picked a more perfect compromise leader as Pro Tem.
It is frustrating to the minority Republicans in the House and Senate that Hammett and Mitchem have impeccable conservative credentials and voting records that mirror any Republican in either chamber. Their conservative pedigrees are above reproach on both social and business issues.
It is frustrating that they cannot truthfully refer to Hammett or Mitchem as liberal.
There is sadly lacking an element of camaraderie or compromise in the Senate. Most Senators tenaciously cling to their original organizational banners and try to thwart the tenuous majority. They resort to partisan and petty bickering and backstabbing.
The Senate is so embroiled in acrimony that you want to throw them a biography of either Henry Clay or Thomas Jefferson so that maybe one or two would pick them up and read a few lines and at least create some level of interest in the art of compromise and civility.
Thankfully, the chaos does not turn into anarchy because quietly sitting next to the Lt. Governor and always in charge with his rule book is the venerable 81-year old Secretary of the Senate, McDowell Lee. Mr. Mac is the ultimate authority on the Senate rules. He has basically been in charge of the Senate since 1963. He is recognized as the premier expert authority on parliamentary procedure in the Capitol. He is an encyclopedia on the rules of procedure and the ultimate authority on the Senate rules.
Steve Flowers is a political columnist. He served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

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