Session considered successful

Published 5:24 pm Wednesday, May 21, 2008

By Staff
There is a famous quote, attributed to the famous British Prime Minister Disraeli, which has been around for years. It basically goes like this, “You don't ever want to see sausage or laws being made. You may like the results, but not the process.” No truer maxim was ever spoken. However, for the second straight year you would not be offended by the Alabama Senate because no sausage or legislation was produced.
Some folks would argue the less legislation a session produces the better the session, that actually no harm is done. There is another old saying that coincides with the no harm theory and that is nobody's life, liberty or property is safe when the Alabama Legislature is in session. If you look at things in that light, it was a success.
The Senate accomplished a second straight “do nothing” session by literally doing nothing for 25 of the 30 legislative days. The House actually worked while the Senate languished the days away with their apathetic stalemate. Senators of both parties contributed to the impossible impasse. There were ample reasons for their dilatory actions. Some substantive and some petty, but most derived from personal agendas that transcended party. The majority of the turmoil was partisan driven, but not always. In fact, one lobbyist joked that last year we could have put red and blue jerseys on them with a partisan flavor or color. However, this year there are so many different teams that six different colored jerseys would not have been enough. Besides they changed teams everyday.
Some of the important legislation that died in the Senate was high profile and very publicized during the three and a half month session. The bill that garnered the most prolific publicity was the heralded House bill to remove the sales tax on groceries. Gov. Riley and most of the Republicans in the Legislature were adamantly opposed to the removal because it was not tax neutral. The loss of revenue to the Education Trust Fund would be made up with an increase to income tax on more well to do Alabamians. Therefore, part of the reason for the delaying tactics in the Senate was perpetrated by Republican Senators designed to torpedo the grocery sales tax legislation.
The proposal was a constitutional amendment that would have had to win approval at the polls in November. It required at least 63 votes to pass the House, which is exactly what it received. However, the issue will not go before voters because it died in the Senate.
The issue of double dipping was also tabled for another year. This is a win for Gov. Riley. Riley and his Junior College Chancellor, Bradley Byrne, got the State School Board to enact a policy in 2007 that prohibits two-year college employees from serving in the State Legislature after 2010. The House actually passed the legislation to continue the practice of double dipping by a 57 to 36 vote. All of the legislators who are affected by the double dipping ban voted for the bill, but it also died in the Senate.
Steve Flowers is a political columnist. He may be reached at

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