First - please allow me to get caught up on the home front. I returned to Madison last Thursday evening a little after 10 PM. Saturday morning I attended the monthly coffee call at the Athens’ Veterans Museum. I always enjoy this event and was honored to be on hand to wish Mr. Calendar a Happy 91st birthday…he is a Pearl Harbor Survivor that now lives in Madison…talk about being in the presence of heroes!
Afterwards I spent a couple of hours visiting with people on the Square during the annual Athens on the Square Car Show. There was a great turnout, even for the heat and the wide range of cars displayed by proud owners was amazing. The event organizer always does a great job coordinating this event with the City of Athens.
On Sunday afternoon I attended the Anderson Hills Home Owner’s Association meeting. This neighborhood, located in the heart of North Madison County, was devastated from the April 27th tornados. The event was widely attended by residents as well as local and state elected officials, FEMA representatives and others.
Today I attended a press conference at UA Huntsville where Teledyne Brown contributed $75,000 to efforts to move the National Solar Observatory to Huntsville. UA Huntsville and the University of Colorado in Boulder are the finalist. Read the story here.
Tomorrow I will tour several National Guard Armories across the state with leadership of the Alabama National Guard and members of the Senate and House Military and Veteran’s Affairs Committees.
Thursday the Senate reconvenes for the final day of the 2011 session – we will adjourn “sine die” that evening and reconvene in February 2012…unless of course Governor Bentley calls for a special session later this year.
My focus in the District during the months ahead will be on jobs, roads, schools and continued tornado recovery efforts. Tomorrow will be the last blog entry for this session but I will restart the monthly newsletters in July!
For Last Weeks Blog Update – An Inside Look at Hardball Politics
Several events occurring over the course of the 2011 Legislative session met on a collision course last week. I’ll attempt to provide a brief, but in-depth look.
First, I remind readers that early on I committed to being a “student of the legislative process” during this session. It is one thing to get behind a piece of legislation; something entirely different to understand and work the process, using leverage only when and where leverage is needed to shepherd legislation through.
This story starts early in the session where I sort of got crossways with some of the Senate leadership regarding the Forever Wild Legislation. Regular readers of the blog know I didn’t oppose the bill, rather I didn’t support passing the legislation this year (read "Looking for Option C" Editorial here – which, by the way, is what eventually occurred).
At the same time the Forever Wild legislation was coming along I introduced a bill requiring multiple DUI offenders to have an ignition interlock device installed on their car. The law requires a driver to blow into a device that analyzes the driver’s breath, determining if there is alcohol present before allowing the driver to start their car. Some legislators didn’t like the bill, viewing it as “big brother-ish” and, initially it met with some general resistance. I worked support for the bill and was eventually able to get it passed through the committee process; next step, a full debate on the Senate floor. Problem – getting leadership to place the bill on the calendar for debate…remember the part about being crossways with some of the leadership who makes the decision about what bills are placed on the calendar? Certainly no ill will intended against anyone…simply politics at work.
And so as my bill lingered, a house version of the bill (the bills are identical) was making its way through the house committee and eventually onto the house floor. The bill passed the house in a 90 – 23 vote and was on its way to the Senate. We quickly realized the Senate version was running out of time for action so we began working the house version. The house version received a first reading in the Senate and was sent to committee where it easily passed; next step, getting the house bill on the calendar for full debate in the Senate.
Tick-Toc-Tick-Toc; time passed and still no movement getting the DUI bills placed on the calendar despite intense lobbying across several fronts. But this is where being a student of the process and understanding leverage came into play…the Senate is a deliberative body and thus has several interesting rules. One of which is that a bill originating in the Senate cannot be sent to the House after the 26th legislative day without unanimous consent from Senators present…meaning one vote could stall a bill on the 27th legislative day.
Leverage Time - Upfront, I do not have anything against Auburn University or their board of trustees. I simply needed leverage to move the DUI bill and saw a target of opportunity as I reviewed the Senate calendar for last Tuesday…the 27th legislative day. Neither the Senate nor the House version of our DUI Ignition Interlock bill were on the calendar BUT a bill to revise the process by which trustees are selected at Auburn was on the calendar. Making matters worse (in my mind) this bill had been introduced less than a week ago. As important as Auburn Trustee selection is, how was it fair that this bill was making its way to the front of the line and the DUI Ignition Interlock bill was still waiting in the winds? .
As we began to work the calendar, I purposely watched and waited until the Auburn bill passed (31 – 0) and then objected to it being sent to the House, effectively stopping it in its tracks. The Senate floor got a little quite when I objected. I’ll admit, I felt like a spoiled brat but, it worked. Suddenly, my vote to not object to the Auburn bill being sent to the house became very important…and so did the placement of the DUI bill on the calendar. In my view, fair was fair and the Auburn Trustee bill, introduced on 24 May should not be in front of DUI legislation that was introduced months before (the Senate bill introduced on 24 March and the House bill introduced on 29 March).
I won’t bore readers with more details but in the end the Auburn Trustee bill was sent to the House for action and the DUI Ignition Interlock bill was placed on the calendar, debated on the floor and passed the Senate in a 25 – 0 vote. The bill now awaits the Governor’s signature to become law.
So there you have it – an inside look at hardball politics in the Alabama legislature. No doubt, legislation sometimes follows a long winding road before becoming law. Of note, I’ve apologized to my colleague who sponsored the Auburn Trustee bill, explaining no ill intent, rather a case of collateral damage. While he was not happy about the delay he was a gentlemen and a statesman regarding the matter as was the Senate leadership in allowing the DUI Interlock bill to be debated on the Senate floor.
I’m proud it finally passed; read the MADD Press Release here.