I’ll attempt to explain the procedural rules we follow and why we are, where we are on this matter. In short, all boards, commissions, divisions, bureaus or like governmental units (that’s a mouthful) operating in the State of Alabama face a Sunset Hearing conducted by the Sunset Committee. Section 41-20-10 of the Code of Alabama requires that on the tenth legislative day of the regular session, one hour after convening, voting shall be on sunset bills as the first order of business, from day to day, until voting on all the bills.
In other words, the law states that Sunset Bills are to be our focus of effort as the re-authorization for these boards/commissions to operate could expire – not good for the state.
Unfortunately these bills became a political football this week and the Democrats pledged to filibuster each one. They had one hour per bill and we have 26 of these to vote on... crazy. I can’t tell you why they wanted to delay things but encourage you to contact them – hold them accountable as I know you will me!
We let them play their reindeer games this morning but shifted gears this afternoon. Procedurally, using our super majority, we were able to set aside the sunset bills (a rule prevents cloture on a Sunset bill) and introduced a special order calendar to move a couple of bills out of the Senate this week.
I’m left wondering, should it really be this difficult? Following are the bills we passed today.
SB257 by Sen Reed, appropriating $300 for each classroom teacher for classroom supplies from the Education Trust Fund (ETF) passed the Senate in a 31-1 vote. Remember, this is the bill the Democrats filibustered on Tuesday and, can you guess who the 1 no vote was? See my Facebook link above. Again I'll state tht funding for classroom supplies has been an easy target for budget cuts in years past. We all know teachers need classroom supplies and I do not think they should have to purchase classroom supplies with their personal funds. In the 2007 state budget, each teacher received about $500 for classroom supplies. This was cut in 2008 and ultimately reduced to zero in both the 2010 and 2011 school years. Although it was never widely reported, the new, Republican controlled legislature restored funding for 2011, about $135 per classroom teacher in the 2012 budget year. Assuming SB257 passes the house, this will increase to a minimum of $300 each year.
SB139 by Sen Scofield. This bill deals with road builder’s liability. I first reported on this bill back in a committee hearing in February. After a public hearing the bill was moved to a sub-committee for further work. In short, the road builders carry significant insurance to off-set frivolous lawsuits. In the end, this makes our roads cost more. I look to this as a means of tort reform but, we must balance the public's need for some degree of recourse should a road be built poorly. I glad to see this bill having been reworked with the various parties – this is the way legislation should be developed. The bill passed 30 -0.
SB148 by Sen Orr, creating the crime of aggravated criminal surveillance…think “Peeping Tom”. There has been some ongoing activity in his district concerning this and, surprising to all of us, current law is not very clear and has caused some problems with prosecution. Local law enforcement helped draft this bill and hopefully will correct this problem.
The Senate adjourned until Wed afternoon where we will take up Sunset Bills again. We are normally in session on Tuesdays but, as this coming Tuesday is our state Primary Elections, we decided to not report to Montgomery on Tuesday so that we could all stay home and vote in our districts. In my view, voting is not only our right but our duty and I encourage everyone to vote on Tuesday. Once.
Semper Fi - Bill