Many good legislative sessions have occurred

Published 9:26am Wednesday, April 27, 2011

As I approach my 60th birthday it occurs to me occasionally that I have witnessed and been part of a good many legislative sessions. I started my observations in 1963 as a 12 year old Page when George Wallace was in his first year as governor.

If you count Lurleen’s two years, Wallace was Governor of Alabama 18 years. You generally get good at something the longer you work at it. This was the case with Wallace and his ability to work the legislature. He became a master at getting his agenda through the legislative labyrinth.

There was a period during the height of his popularity that he seemed to simply run the legislative branch of state government as though it was an appendage of the executive branch. He controlled who was Speaker of the House and President Pro Tem of the Senate and who served on what committees. Even in my first term in the House and Wallace’s last term as governor, from 1982-86, his office would set the agenda for the day. He so controlled the agenda setting Rules Committee that they never even met but simply rubberstamped and deferred to Wallace’s calendar. He was truly omnipotent. He stuck to his knitting and ran a tight ship.

Even though Wallace’s programs had smooth sailing this new group of GOP legislators may be the most productive group I have ever seen. Their first year at the helm of the legislative branch is truly one to write home about. They made a handshake with Alabama when they ran in 2010 and they are on a mission to deliver on that promise.

They have attacked Goat Hill with a zeal to change state government. They are focused and do not allow themselves to take their eyes off the ball. They have a conservative agenda and they are flat sure delivering. They have stormed the gates and run the money changers from the temple. They have taken no prisoners and spared no sacred cows.

In the carnage they have dethroned and decapitated King Paul Hubbert and his AEA legions and brushed aside the Trial Lawyers and organized labor with impunity and disdain. In less than two months they have changed the way that education dollars are budgeted by implementing a rolling reserve budget concept. This new approach will provide for a more stable and prudent way of funding education dollars and will probably avoid proration in future years.

They have killed the lucrative DROP Program that allowed state and education employees who are 55 years old and have 25 years of service to receive salary and retirement benefits while continuing to work. They have passed an anti illegal immigrant act that mirrors the controversial Arizona law. This Act would call for an illegal immigrant convicted of violating a state or local law to be automatically transferred to the custody of federal immigration officials.

This conservative pro business group of solons slapped labor with the BCA led effort to rewrite the state constitution to say that workers would be guaranteed secret ballots when voting whether to unionize a workplace. Another constitutional initiative passed by the GOP body divorces Alabama from Obama Care. They have put on the 2012 ballot a constitutional amendment that declares that a law shall not compel any person or health care provider to participate in any health care system.

Like Wallace, Gov. Robert Bentley came to the governor’s office with legislative experience. He knows the body and how it works. However, unlike his predecessors, he does not clamor to claim credit or authorship or beat his chest and exalt his efforts or existence. In his wise, prudent and selfless way he has chosen not to take the glory. In his State of the State address he acknowledged all of these measures and initiatives and succinctly stated he favored them all. He simply said, I’m also for them and if you send them to my desk I will sign them.

This new super majority legislature really means to function. They set sail to put their stamp on state government. The captain of the ship, Speaker Mike Hubbard, says, “We promised the voters of Alabama that if they put us in charge these bills would be priorities and we actually meant it. We made these promises and we’re going to follow through on them.” He wasn’t just whistlin’ Dixie.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 72 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the state legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

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