Legislative labyrinth finished
Published 4:36 pm Thursday, June 4, 2009
Although the marquee issues, such as the removal of sales tax from groceries, the ethics overhaul, relief for the PACT program and the adoption of the plan to regulate and tax bingo, failed to pass during the just ended Legislative Session, some legislation did make it through the legislative labyrinth.
Legislation that would allow a resort hotel and convention center to be built at a state park on the Alabama coast won legislative approval. This move was a compromise that allows a privately operated hotel and state operated convention center to be built at the location of the old motel at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores. The hotel site has been dormant since being devastated by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 because of disagreements over how to proceed.
The Legislature passed a measure that would require Alabama judges to have some experience prior to going on the bench. The new requirements are that a State Appeals Court Judge must be a lawyer for ten years, Circuit Judges would need five years experience, and District Judges three years. These new experience requirements take effect for judicial candidates in next year’s elections. Prior to this new legislation, there were no experience requirements to become a judge in Alabama. In fact, our current Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb, who has been a judge her entire career, became a District Judge in Conecuh County immediately after law school when she was in her mid-twenties.
Finally, there was a lot of media attention brought to bear on the monumental 61 percent pay increase Legislators voted themselves in 2007. It appears there was a rider on the pay increase bill that gives them an automatic cost of living increase every two years. Their constituents were reminded of the pay increase by this automatic provision.
It appeared that Legislators, especially Senators, were cognizant of the fact that their performance as a body has been ridiculed extensively for two years. There was a concerted effort to try to work together to find some semblance of harmony and activity. The partisan discord and total lack of action coupled with the pay increase has actually affected the reelectability polling numbers of most of the State Senate members.
One Senator, Phil Poole, seems oblivious to the criticism. He staged a one man filibuster for most of the Session disrupting the flow of even basic perfunctory measures.Poole will not be chosen “Senator of the Year” by either his Senate colleagues or the media.
Steve Flowers is a political columnist who
served 16 years in the state legislature.