I’m behind on the blog from Wednesday and Thursday. I know many are remembering the events of one year ago today and the devastation that occurred across our state…the light rain and rumbles of thunder this afternoon are reminiscent of the power of the weather on this day one year ago. Looking back over last year’s blog on this day – I didn’t blog, I asked for prayers. My family’s prayers are with those that have been affected by the storms over the past year. We are ever thankful for everyone that did something to help someone in these storms. Makes you proud to be in Alabama; if nothing else, we are a stronger community because of these events and I’m honored to represent each of you.
On to the blog update for this week; Wednesday was one of the easiest days I’ve experienced in Montgomery- there simply was not much to write about. After committee meetings in the morning I was able to work on several projects in my office throughout the afternoon – even to the point of giving me the elusive feeling - I’m caught up! - I’m fairly certain that feeling won’t last long! A highlight of Thursday’s committee meetings included the passage of my School Flexibility Act, SB365. This is the stand-alone flexibility version for public schools that is in (to varying degrees) both the Senate and House versions of Charter/Flex bills…this is the storm of the session brewing over the horizon. Later in the evening I was even able to take in a two-mile run before dinner.
The Senate went into session at 10 AM on Thursday and adjourned at 6:45 PM. I was able to leave the State House just after 7 PM, placing me back in Madison around 10 PM…oh so nice to sleep in my own bed!
For the most part we had a productive day, but the day went long as some of us played defense on the State-Wide School Calendar Bill that was waiting in the wings. This bill caused significant disruption as it became apparent to several of us that those pushing for the bill were planning to wait the day out and possibly introduce as the number of Senators dwindled. Some Senators were leaving for the weekend to attend memorials; a disappointing strategy for me on several levels.
Earlier in the week the general consensus was that we’d adjourn early on Thursday allowing members to return to their districts. I had agreed to be the Key Note Speaker at the University of Alabama Veterans Banquet in Tuscaloosa – 200 Veterans/Students and Faculty attended. This event had been scheduled weeks advance and I was honored to have been asked to speak, both as a Veteran and as the Chair of the Veterans and Military Affairs Committee. The event started at 6 PM and as I listened to debates and watched the clock slip past 4 PM I knew I had to call the coordinator and deliver the disappointing news that I would be unable to attend – if the Senate is in Session, I plan to be there to cast my vote. While disappointed, he was a good sport and said, “Senator, you are right where you need to be.” I asked him to pass along to the attendees that “We are fully engaged on all fronts – fighting the good fight in Montgomery” - I’m certain that an audience of Veterans understood!
Compared to previous days, a significant amount of work was accomplished in the Senate Thursday. Bills of note that passed are listed below:
Legislative Pay: One of the most significant bills we’ve passed this session is the proposed constitutional amendment tying the Legislature's pay to the state's median household income. I reported on the shenanigans with this bill last week – the amendment fiasco. Several good articles were written by the press. As predicted, all of the show-boating Democrat amendments were stripped off in Conference Committee and the voters will have a clean bill for the November ballot. I urge you to vote in favor of this Constitutional Amendment, as it will forever close the door on the legislative pay debacle created by the Democrats in 2007.
Texting While Driving: The Texting While Driving bill went to a conference committee to work out the details between the Senate and House version. I reported in Tuesdays Blog that the Senate agreed to amend the House version, defining a few exceptions in the law. The conference committee agreed to a couple and disagreed on a couple…some call it collaboration, some call it compromise. I didn’t want the bill to fail but wish we could’ve kept the part about using your cell phone to text/email while at a stop light. I know some readers disagree, but many others agree. In the end that part was lost. We were able to keep in the bill that you can safely pull over onto the shoulder of the road and text/email. I still maintain this will be extremely hard for Law Enforcement to monitor but will serve as a deterrent for many…it is now against the law to text and drive, assuming the Governor signs into law.
Ectopic Pregnancy: I think most readers know my life story and that I’m unabashedly Pro-Life …you just never know what impact a child, when given the chance, may have in life; adoption is a good thing! I say this to inform readers of a bill we passed providing that removing an ectopic pregnancy in Alabama will no longer be considered an abortion. For those that don’t know (I didn’t until I studied this bill) an ectopic pregnancy is one where the fetus forms outside of the womb. There is no chance of survival for the child and the women’s life may become at risk due to complications. However, under current law in Alabama, this procedure is considered an abortion. I supported this bill.
Disaster Preparedness Supplies: We gave final passage to a bill providing a tax-free weekend for purchasing certain disaster preparedness supplies. You can read the bill here to learn more on what items qualify.
De Minimis Value Defined: Remember the debacle last Christmas where children supposedly couldn’t give gifts to their teachers? I maintain this was much ado about nothing as the ethics law we passed in 2010 was clear – for the purposes of influencing a public employee or state official – but as special interest groups were determined to make this something it was not and as the Ethics Commission failed to provide clear guidance (I provided my thoughts in an Op/Ed in November 2011) the Legislature took action to further define “de minimis value ”. The House version of this bill placed a $25 cap on gifts – an amendment was introduced in the Senate to raise this to $50 or less, so this will go back to the House and possibly a Conference Committee.
That’s all for now…I think I’m caught up. I attended a couple of meetings in the District this morning and have just about caught up on my phone calls and emails (still playing phone tag with a couple of you - you know who you are…). I plan to attend the Athens on the Square Car Show tomorrow and the Denim & Diamonds Gala for the Athens-Limestone Hospital tomorrow evening…now, what do you wear to a Denim & Diamonds event? I’ve got denim, but I am short on diamonds!
Semper Fi - Bill
Some days you know you are doing exactly what you are suppose to be doing at this very moment in your life; I feel blessed because today was one of those days.
I started my day performing an important, time honored act of freedom in America…I hope you did as well…voted. Today was voting day in Alabama for the Primary Run-Off election. Polls opened at 7 AM and I was there at 7:10; I was number 6 on the voting machine as I exited. My heartfelt congratulations to those candidates who campaigned through two elections this year! I dropped my daughter off at school on the way out of town, heading south to Montgomery for the week.
I arrived at the State House a little after 10 AM. The Senate was scheduled to go into session at 3 PM but I had a busy morning planned: two meetings, a caucus lunch and an interview with Alabama Public Television scheduled. All in all it was a busy yet productive morning.
I’m happy to report that the Senate passed several bills today. A state-wide ban on texting while driving passed the Senate in a 25 – 2 vote. Several cities in North Alabama already have this type of law on the books and a state-wide version has been in the works for years. The House version passed early in the session and today it came up for a vote in the Senate. I offered an amendment to the house version modeled after a local ordinance I helped craft in Madison that, while banning texting while driving, it allows for certain exceptions to include allowing texting while the vehicle is stopped. The amendment passed the Senate 29 – 1 however, upon transfer to the House, the House non-concurred with the amendment. The bill will now go to a conference committee where we will work out further details. I hope to be appointed to that conference committee by Senate leadership. I’ll share that my greatest concern with this bill is the enforceability aspect. As I shared in the floor debate, this is an example where the Field Generals are developing a wonderful battle strategy but, the Platoon Sergeants will find the plan un-executable on the front-lines. In other words, the no-texting while driving ban will look great on paper but law enforcement is left with a challenge of enforcing it…think of it this way – was the person next to you in traffic texting or dialing a phone number? Who knows - and better yet, what probable cause does law enforcement have to make that decision?
Another bill I’ve been working since last year provides limited direct access to Physical Therapy in Alabama. Yes, we are no longer the last state to allow some form of direct access! This bill was a collaborative effort between many parties - for and against - and I was happy to see a version pass the Senate. My main reason for supporting - this bill greatly expands the affordability and accessibility to Health Care. This is how health Care reform should take place!
Later in the evening a couple of the insurance bills made a reappearance …uh-oh. These are some of the same bills that locked the Senate down last week. But alas, optimism prevails as agreements were made over the weekend! One of the insurance bills that passed includes establishing an individual Catastrophe Savings Account. This is a regular savings account or money market account established by a policyholder to cover an insurance deductible under an insurance policy covering hurricane, rising floodwaters, or other catastrophic windstorm event damage – such as Tornados. This was the Senate version and has a way to go in the House – but it is a start and I congratulate all parties for working out a solution…especially without shutting down the Senate.
The Senate adjourned at 7:30 PM and I was able to tie up some loose ends before leaving my office around 8 PM. I have a TVA Caucus meeting at 8 AM followed by four committee meetings (with a total of 20 bills to be debated – a little light reading tonight). The Senate reconvenes at 10 AM on Thursday.
Semper Fi - Bill
I started Thursday morning with a Commerce, Transportation and Utilities meeting at 8:30 AM where we debated and passed four bills. The Senate then went into Session at 10:00 AM. We began the day working very well together and I was able to pass the House version of the pseudoephedrine bill I’m sponsoring …sometimes known as the Stop Meth, Not Meds.
The bill works to further tighten the ability to obtain over the counter medication containing pseudoephedrine – such as Sudafed, without making the medicine prescription only. This bill was a collaborative effort between several entities ranging from retail association, to law enforcement, and district attorneys. While rare, it is still legal to purchase medication containing pseudoephedrine from retail establishments. This bill makes these medications available only through a pharmacy but NOT requiring a prescription. It is important to note that this bill does so much more than address the medication – it also makes identification requirements more stringent (you can currently use a library card...) and enables law enforcement to make a bust on a meth lab based on drug paraphernalia being present.
A substitute was offered on the floor that attempted to make over-the-counter medications containing pseudoephedrine available by prescription only. I opposed this maneuver as it penalized law abiding citizens, requiring everyone to take time off work, visit a doctor, pay a co-pay, get a prescription, go to the pharmacy, pay another co-pay, to get their allergy medication. Imagine how congested doctor’s offices would become. We were successful in defeating the substitute and passing the original bill. It now goes to the Governor for signature. I appreciate everyone working together to pass this common sense legislation.
As the day continued we were able to pass other bills, a couple of bills were carried over so that members could work out a mutually agreed upon solution (a novel idea….) and then the wheels promptly came off. Everyone knew it was going to happen – it was like watching a train wreck. Remember the filibuster from Tuesday – pitting Insurance Industry backed Republicans against other Republicans? Well, the side doing the filibuster on Tuesday had a bill on the calendar this afternoon. As I’m sure readers have guessed – the opposition decided to return the favor and shut down the Senate in another filibuster. It’s like Groundhog Day around here…
Semper Fi - Bill
Today was a good day – moving from committee meeting to committee meeting for most of the day and meeting with various department heads and interest groups in the late afternoon. I started my day at 8:30 AM and should wrap things up by 6 PM.
Significant bills of interest that passed committee meetings that I attended today include the following:
SB513 - The Education Options Act…what I call the Charter/Flex bill, passed the Senate Education Policy Committee today in a 5-4-1 vote…5-yes votes, 4-no votes and 1- abstention…interesting votes. I’m a co-sponsor on the bill and as discussed in last night’s blog support the Charter concept on a limited scale. I also support HB365 which is the flexibility portion of the Charter/Flex bill in a stand-alone bill and look forward to these bills coming to the Senate floor for debate.
SB353 – a bill I’m sponsoring that addresses drug possession vs. drug trafficking. In short, the drug dealers have figured out how to stay under the threshold so that they are only charged with possession. This bill will enable Law Enforcement and the District Attorneys to charge some of our worst offenders – the drug dealers who are preying on members of our communities. A House version of this bill has already passed and this bill is in great position for passage.
A version of the Limited Direct Access to Physical Therapy bill I championed this year and last year passed the Senate Health committee today. After much debate and collaboration the House version of this bill has emerged as an agreed upon version by all parties. My Senate version was caught in a stalemate with a 3 – 3 tie in the Senate Health Committee. Proponents were able to move the House version through committee onto the floor, eventually passing the House. This enabled the collaboration and now we have a workable solution enabling limited direst access for the public to PTs…in Montgomery lingo this is called “making sausage”. I appreciate everyone’s work on this bill as it enables what I call the affordability and accessibility of health care for Alabamians. Now let’s hope we can get it through the log jam in the final weeks of the 2012 session.
Of special mention, the School Calendar bill in the Senate has been referred to the Senate Tourism Committee…really? A bill mandating a state-wide start date for public schools is going to be debated in Tourism? I’m on Education Policy Committee and had hoped to have a chance to debate this bill in committee but it was sent to Tourism…really? Guess I’ll just have to wait for the bill to come up on the Senate floor.
A local issue I’d like to touch on is the two TVA Bills that have been introduced; one in Limestone Co and one in Madison Co. In both instances my singular goal is the distribution of the people’s money in the most judicious manner possible – based on where the people live. The 2010 Census reflected several things, Limestone and Madison Counties continue to lead the state in growth – the distribution of tax dollars collected/paid at the state level should follow where the people have chosen to live.
I encourage everyone to read the recent newspapers articles linked here - Athens News Courier Article, Huntsville Times Article #1, Huntsville Times Article #2. Of special mention, the articles in the Huntsville Times attempt to paint this as a Madison vs. Huntsville issue. That couldn’t be farther from the truth…this is a Madison County issue. Yes, I am a former Madison City Councilman – as the Huntsville Times points out – but I represent a significant portion of Huntsville – something the Huntsville Times fails to point out. Just so readers know, in Senate District 2, I represent all of Huntsville in Limestone Co as well as all of Huntsville on the west side of Madison County from the county line to Jordan Lane/Hwy 53 (link to map of SD2). Again, I’m focused on supporting ALL of the people across the county and will continue to work to do so in both Limestone and Madison Counties.
I have a Commerce, Transportation and Utilities Committee meeting at 8:30 in the morning and the Senate goes into session at 10 AM tomorrow. I will be handling the House version of the Sudafed bill on the Special Order Calendar tomorrow. This is the version that does NOT make Sudafed and other drugs prescription only. I believe that we have wide support for this bill and look forward to seeing it pass. Several of my colleagues and I plan to enjoy some minor league baseball this evening as the Montgomery Biscuits take the field at 7:05…I’m really looking forward to watching someone else play hardball for a change!
Semper Fi - Bill
I backed out of my driveway at 5:45 AM and arrived in Montgomery just before we went into session at 9 AM – in time to get to the Senate floor for the opening prayer and pledge. I’m glad we still do that; sure helps me get in the right frame of mind!
In what is becoming a reoccurring theme – I start my day optimistic that we’ll get some work done but alas - we get off track. Today was somewhat different as today pitted Republican against Republican in a filibuster over Insurance reform.
A little “inside baseball” for readers – insurance reform has been an ongoing issue since hurricanes devastated the Gulf Coast a few years ago. Senators from the southern regions of our state have worked for years to improve insurance coverage for our state through a leveling of the playing field - so to speak. I support most of these reforms as recent tornados have made this a state-wide issue rather than focused on the coast. It is important to remember that various insurance companies supported various Senators (Rs and Ds) in the 2010 campaigns. A Special Order Calendar – specific to insurance reform – was introduced this morning; a total of 6 bills. The first bill – opposed by the insurance industry as it requires insurance companies to disclose to policy holders that a discount is available for construction or improvements to property to withstand windstorm damage. This is currently in law – the bill only required the companies to notify policy holders of this discount. The bill was blocked procedurally from coming up for a vote…the stage was set. The second bill on the calendar, backed by the insurance industry as it allows them to expand where and how they are able to invest funds was also blocked procedurally from coming up for a vote – but this time it was blocked by those who supported the first bill…confusion mounts. The third bill was then brought up, passed the procedural vote to enter debate and was promptly filibustered…who’s on first; anyone know? After almost two hours of Republicans filibustering Republicans the Senate adjourned at 11:00 and I’m left wondering why I left Madison at 5:45 AM for this.
After a Caucus meeting lunch where we attempted to get everyone back on track I attended a rare Tuesday Education Policy meeting. This was a Public Hearing on SB 513, a bill I’ve co-sponsored with Sen Brewbaker for Education Options. This bill combines parts of the House version of the Charter Schools Bill and SB365, the Education Flexibility Bill I’ve previously introduced. I agreed to co-sponsor with Sen Brewbaker as a means to ensure some form of educational flexibility passes the legislature this year. We simply cannot afford to continue to do the same things the same way we’ve always done them. As I’ve stated before, I support a limited application of Charter Schools so long as they follow defined metrics, allowing for us to accurately gauge whether or not they will work in Alabama. They must be limited to areas where schools are chronically failing and enrollment must mirror local schools in socio economic as well as children with disabilities. The public hearing shed little light on this bill as I’ve followed the house version – AEA opposes, everyone else is open minded – the devils in the details and that is what is being worked out between the House and Senate versions as they make their way through the process. I’m still working to move SB365, my School Flexibility bill out of committee as well, hoping to position it as a fail safe for education reform should all else on the table fail.
The Senate reconvened at 3 PM and continued the filibuster, err, I mean debate, on the insurance bills. Having not come to a compromise during lunch, leadership brought the filibuster to a close by carrying the bills over. We then scrapped the morning Special Order Calendar – having filibustered on 3 of the 6 bills – and introduced another Special Order Calendar with only one bill on it; HB276 by Rep Ball – this is the legislative pay compensation bill, a Constitutional Amendment (CA) that, should it pass, repeals the 2007 Democrat lead legislative pay increase and replaces it based on the median annual household income in Alabama. Currently all legislators are reimbursed at the same rate regardless of distance traveled to Montgomery; under HB276, legislators living within 50 miles of Montgomery are not reimbursed for mileage or hotel. I support this bill as it is a Constitutional Amendment (CA) and it lets the voters decide.
Several amendments were offered – it turned into a fiasco of who could amend what the most – led by democrats who were the architectures of the 2007 pay raise debacle. I voted against all amendments offered for the simple reason that this bill passed the House in a 91 – 2 and I believe the bill is ready for the people to vote on. The bill will now go to a conference committee with the House to work out a final version.
The Senate adjourned just before 6:00 PM after having passed one bill today – the Legislative Compensation bill. Don’t get me wrong – I’m okay with not passing bills, fewer laws passed is better but I know of several good bills, supported by conservatives, that are backed up in the log jam, not to mention local legislation. We will reconvene on Thursday at 10:00. I have six committee meetings in the morning beginning at 8:30...it’s been a long day but I’ll return tomorrow, optimistic that well get something done!
ATPRO Update – I’ve received several emails requesting status on SB51 – ATPRO. I’ve worked this bill behind the scenes for several months now. Earlier in the session I held a work session concerning the bill (reported in the 15 Feb blog). Unfortunately things aren’t looking good for ATPRO this year, mostly based on the budgets. The Legislative Fiscal note on SB51 shows a $10M plus hit to the budget, this in a year where we are short $400M in the General Fund and $100M in the Education Trust Fund. I maintain this is factored wrong as it assumes everyone eligible to participate in ATPRO will be allowed to – that is not the case as unlike the DROP program, where everyone qualified, in ATPRO employees apply through their local board. Local Boards are to make decisions based on the need for the employee to remain in service; not everyone applying will be nor should be allowed to participate. Remember the purpose of this program (both DROP and ATPRO) – a management tool to incentivize an employee who has decided to retire to remain in service for a defined period of time, allowing the board to find a replacement…and then the employee retires. This is what killed the DROP program – everyone who applied was accepted and few retired. For what it is worth, I talked with several state employees and have drafted a state employee version of ATPRO. The projected fiscal note on that is MUCH larger than the $10M on ATPRO...it is not looking good for either of these to move this year.
Semper Fi - Bill
I'm a little behind on posting to the blog. Last week was a long, busy week but all in all a good week. The Senate reconvenes at 0900 tomorrow - meaning if I want to sleep at home tonight I'll be backing out of my driveway at 0545 (yawn) in the morning for the three hour drive south. We are nearing "crunch time" as the 2012 session winds down and several bills that have languished in the shadows will be in the spot-light in the coming days...Charter Schools, Budgets and Redistricting to name just a few.
I'll resume the daily blog tomorrow but for today I wanted to share the following editorial:
Why I Oppose A State-Wide School Calendar
There is no doubt that tourism is very important to Alabama and our state and local budgets—but should that be the driving factor in setting a school calendar? I have to ask myself, if this is such a great idea for our children, then why aren’t the local school boards already setting the calendars as such? I maintain this is a local issue and should be set locally, not in Montgomery.
An analysis of the house vote on HB 360, a bill mandating a state-wide school calendar, reveals 63% of the yes votes cast (39 of 62) were by Republicans. What happened to the Republican agenda of less government; a smaller government that is accountable to the people at home? Why is state government influencing local decisions? Would we not be up-in-arms if the federal government attempted to impose a nation-wide school calendar? Why then do we think it is ok for Montgomery to dictate a state-wide school calendar?
This bill passed the House for one reason and one reason only—the almighty dollar. As the tourism industry lobbied for passage of House Bill 360 they touted millions of increased tourism dollars flowing into Alabama’s economy – albeit a good thing, especially in this troubling economy, but at what cost? Yes, what cost? School calendars are about the education of our children, not about tourism. While the tourism industry touts the idea of Alabama beaches being covered with families for an extra two weeks, others are examining the facts centered on our children’s education. Studies support the “brain-drain” that occurs when school breaks occur over extended periods. These long breaks result in teachers having to re-teach concepts when children return to school, causing our children to be set further and further behind. Classroom realities such as this are what school calendar decisions should be based on.
I will agree that local school leaders could do a better job of coordinating regional school system calendars. For example, it is often problematic when Huntsville City, Madison City and Madison County Schools schedule spring or fall breaks on different weeks. Yes, leadership can do better at coordination breaks, but in the end the decision should remain in their hands.
Will the tourism industry sway the votes to further move HB360 through the Senate? I will continue to oppose HB360 based on my belief in smaller, local government that is responsible to the people, locally.
The bottom line for me - if Bill Holtzclaw, the parent (not the State Senator) of a child attending public schools attends a school board meeting to voice concerns over the school calendar and the Board replied – “sorry, our hands are tied; the calendar is set by the folks in Montgomery” – then my voice is effectively silenced. I was not elected to go to Montgomery to silence the voice of the people I represent and I will not support this legislation.
Semper Fi - Bill
The Senate convened at 0900 this morning, making for an early morning start from Madison as I backed out of my driveway at 0545. The drive to Montgomery was uneventful – down right peaceful for the most part – as the sun rose across the TN valley. I enjoyed a great Easter weekend and hope you did as well.
We passed a handful of bills once session started this morning. A couple I'll comment on include SB459 by Sen Blackwell, an initiative to streamline government created ONE SPOT – Optional Network Election for Single Point Online Transactions. This will be administered by the Alabama Department of Revenue and available for use by both taxpayers and Alabama municipalities and counties at no cost. The intent is to address instances where retailers have to file hundreds of returns and write hundreds of checks for different entities every month.
We also passed HB243 by Rep Collins, an economic development bill for the entertainment industry. This expands on existing law to encourage filming and documentaries in Alabama…Hollywood of the South?
We also passed SB283 by Sen Ward, a bill providing for group insurance coverage of autism spectrum disorder in Alabama.
SB388 by Sen Orr changing the state retirement system for new-hires only passed as well. This was a controversial bill to some but follows suit with other states who realize that we can no longer afford a broad defined benefit plan in these lean years.
The Senate adjourned about 1630. I met with several groups in my office before attending two receptions this evening. I rarely attend receptions but was happy to meet with the Realtors and the Tourism Industry; both supported by local organizations participating in state-wide efforts. It was great seeing so many faces from Limestone and Madison Counties.
Tomorrow is Wednesday and that means committee day. I have four committee meetings, with a total of 12 Bills lined up for tomorrow – starting at 0800. I'm pitching two of the bills. I’ll finish out tonight studying all of these bills.
I was glad to see the cooperation in the Senate today across both parties. We have a lot of work ahead of us – HB159/HB160 which continue to be worked on in committee, the charter schools bill, oh, and the budgets to name just a few. The General Fund budget passed the House late this evening in a 56 – 47 vote…yes, we have a lot of work ahead of us. At least we are finally working.
I started this morning chairing the Joint Legislative Contract Review Committee meeting at 8:30 AM - it is now almost 8:30 PM and we are still going in the Senate. We finished the Contract Review agenda about 9:30 AM and the Senate went into session at 10:00 AM. I was very optimistic that we would actually complete some work today as I've previously shared my concern that time is running out on this session…my optimism didn’t last long.
One of the first items on our daily agenda in the Senate is the transmission of House messages – this is the process by which we receive bills from the House and gives the bill it's first reading before being assigned to a Senate committee.
The Democrats decided to slow things down again and began filibustering each of these bills. We patiently let this process go while leadership worked with the democrat leadership in an attempt to find out what had them upset. Turns out, we never really knew BUT we decided it was time to cloture the debate and move on with actual work, ending the delay tactics.
As background - the cloture vote is Rule 20 of the Senate and follows: The Committee on Rules may report a special rule that debate on any measure shall cease at a certain hour and a vote be taken on the measure. The consideration of such special rule shall not exceed twenty minutes, when a vote shall be taken thereon; and if three-fifths of the members elected shall vote to limit debate, then said rule or petition shall have been adopted by the Senate.
Three-fifths of the members of the Senate requires 21 of the 35 members of the Senate…we were short with a 20 – 10 vote, 5 Senators either passed or were not on the floor. So, now that we had decided to invoke cloture when in reality, we didn’t have enough votes, we had to listen to hours of filibustering. The vote count is linked here; a yes vote supported closing debate and moving forward on the agenda. A no vote supported allowing the filibuster to continue.
I certainly can’t speak for why some voted (or didn’t vote at all) as each Senator answers for themselves…you’ll have to ask them but I'm left scratching my head. I'll be clear - I support full and open debate and will continue to work to encourage that time honored process. However, I will not stand for delay tactics.
After some soul searching leadership was able to pull the Senate Republican Majority back together in the early afternoon and get back on track. We had to continue to cloture (successfully this time) as the democrats employed every delay tactic at their disposal – reading the bills at length prior to final vote, having the titles read of each bill received from the House, etc. One of the bills read at length took over one hour to complete...productive? I think not.
We finally passed three bills in the Senate…the Senate adjourned at 8:30 PM…ten and half hour day and we passed three bills. I can’t wait to get to the heavy-lifting…the budgets and redistricting.
Sure wish our Republican majority would have shown up earlier in the day.
The Senate goes back into session on Tuesday at 9:00 AM.
While I've had better days in the Senate, no day is better than this Sunday, Easter Sunday - My prayer is that everyone enjoys a Happy Easter with family and friends, for He has risen.
Semper Fi - Bill
Short blog post tonight…busy day carried into the afternoon and evening. I often catch myself saying “I know a little bit about a lot of things” and today was no exception.
I started the day with committee meetings at 8:30 AM; my last committee meeting was at 3 PM followed by an opportunity to speak at a legislative round-table with members of the Southern League of Credit Unions. I enjoyed meeting with this group, discussing legislation as well as effective means to communicate with legislators through grass-roots efforts…from a legislator’s perspective!
Topics of the bills we debated in committee meetings ranged from regulations on sperm/egg donors to allowing home schooled children participation in school extracurricular activities (Tim Tebow Bill) to extending the number of years we can use the metal license plates on our cars. Guess you could say I know a little more about a lot of things after today.
The first cut of the 2013 General Fund Budget was debated in a House committee today. A substitute budget was offered replacing the one filed by the Governor’s office. An electronic version of the substitute is not available yet (it is 11:20 PM as I type this). I will post to the blog once available. Here is a link to a press report on the hearing. This was a House committee hearing and I was unable to attend as I was in Senate committee meetings.
I’m becoming ever more concerned with the log-jam of bills stacking up for debate in the full Senate (overall, not a bad thing as bad bills won’t be passed – but what about the good bills?) and the fact that we’ve yet to collectively work on the budgets and redistricting. Tick-Tock.
I will start tomorrow morning at 8:30, chairing the Legislative Contract Review Committee. Should you desire, you can review our agenda here. The Senate reconvenes at 10:00 am tomorrow.
You’ve heard of Christmas in July - well, how about Veteran’s Day in March? That’s how I’ll remember the last week of March. The Alabama Legislature took the last week of March off for Spring Break. I was able to attend several meetings and events across the district last week. On Thursday I was both honored and humbled to participate in the Welcome Home Vietnam Veteran’s Ceremony at the Veteran’s Memorial in Huntsville. Several hundred attended this event. On Saturday I attended the medal ceremony for Cpl Cleveland King. He was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals for actions in Vietnam in 1968…but never received them. Somehow or another they were lost in the mail and that was corrected 44 years later. The Marines of Rocket Battery K in Huntsville hosted the medal ceremony. It was an awesome event to witness.
Other meetings and events I attended over Spring Break included meetings with the Athens City and Limestone County School Boards, Senator Shelby’s town hall meeting in Athens, and the Monrovia Volunteer Fire Department awards banquet.
The legislature reconvened today, but I left Madison a little after 11:00 on Monday morning, arriving in Montgomery to attend a couple of meetings that afternoon concerning legislation I’m working. I’ll be able to share a little more in the days ahead. We are now in the second half of the 2012 Legislative Session and have much work before us – budgets, redistricting among the biggest items we’ve yet to debate. The Senate went into session at 2 PM today. I spent the morning working on several bills and the Legislative Contract Review agenda; that committee holds its monthly meeting on Thursday. We were only able to pass one bill in the Senate today before the wheels came off; a bill dealing with the budgets and reallocation for the prison system based on the Governor’s recently announced proration to the General Fund…insight to the troubling times ahead regarding the 2013 budgets.
As I’ve discussed before, our state still has a spending problem and I see it every month in Contract Review. I get to see the funding allocated in the General Fund and get to see it obligated in Contract Review – similar to your household, budgeting money for things you’d like to purchase but, months later when it comes time to spend the money (i.e., obligate the funding) the “family” can’t seem to hold back – I often ask, “just because you were allocated these funds – do we really need to obligate them on this now? Can’t we wait a year or two and save the money.”
Tomorrow is committee day; as usual I have several committee meetings, back-to-back starting at 0830 and will spend the remainder of the evening reading bills in advance of those meetings.
Semper Fi - Bill