Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Alabama Legislature in 400 words or less

I haven't been around much lately, so I've missed most of the lively post material our esteemed Alabama legislators dished out generously this year. Fortunately, it's easy to tell the story of the last four months of Goat Hill action via the magic of bullet points.
  • The Senate threatened to lock down from the very start after the ghost of the Punch Heard 'Round the World floated into the chamber, only to make peace after the most interested parties -- Sens. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, and Charles Bishop, R-Jasper -- made nice and made up.
  • Then the Senate threatened to lock down after Sen. Phil Poole, D-Moundville, vowed to filibuster in protest of Gov. Bob Riley's veto of road money for his district last year.
  • Then the Senate did lock down as everyone and his brother and her aunt and their cousins burned two full months of the session filibustering a local gambling bill.
  • Meanwhile, House members, as per recent tradition, handled their business about as efficiently as a group of 105 politicians can, then waited around for the Senate to do anything -- anything -- at all.
  • The Senate somehow found time to pass a General Fund budget, then dawdled on the education budget until the clock ran out on the regular session.
  • Among the reams of bills killed that day: a plan to cut income taxes for most Alabamians and cut grocery taxes for everyone, a bill to ban smoking in most public places, a measure to add sexual orientation to the hate crimes law, and a call to set those wrongfully imprisoned hops free.
  • Negotiators disagree on who said "no deal" to a proposed education budget in the regular session's waning hours. Regardless, when they opened the case during the special session a week later, universities found the $5 million -- written on a check to K-12 schools.
With that, Alabama got an education budget, the special session ended today five days after it began, and our legislators wished us happy trails. Seriously, the House closed the session by playing "Happy Trails." And yes, there was singing.

Lest you fear your love for ALISON will go unrequited until next year, though, there's already buzz that lawmakers may go back to Montgomery for yet another special session this summer. Because much like Goonies, our Legislature never says sine die.