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This year’s legislative sessions: ‘Like deja vu all over again’

By By Steve Flowers
The famous and beloved New York Yankee, Yogi Berra, who was renowned as a dugout philosopher is credited with the saying, “It’s like deja vu all over again.” That yogism is an accurate assessment of both this year’s and last year’s legislative sessions. They are deja vu all over again. However, this year could be worse.
Unlike last year, the Senate did manage to avoid hitting each other but in an amazingly unconscionable and reprehensible display of neglect they failed to pass the education budget. This is the only requirement they have to accomplish in the three and a half month session. A special session was necessary to pass an education budget. In the meantime, young untenured school teachers were being given pink slips and moving to Florida or Georgia to teach and superintendents were grasping for ways to determine next year’s school plans. All because of the petty childlike antics in the Alabama Senate.
The session was wasted by mundane partisan bickering and juvenile pettiness that defies logic. The Governor, in a display of bipartisan leadership, arrived on the scene six hours prior to adjournment to try to reason with both sides. He shook his head in disbelief at the impasse over $25 million in a $6.8 billion budget, which they were filibustering over. That amount is meaningless in the budget. The Senate simply wanted to disagree for disagreement sake. They killed the budget and session the same way third graders on a school playground would have a spat then decide to walk off and take their ball home with them.
The partisan battle that has been waged in the Senate for the past two years has translated into not only gridlock but chaos for state government. Much of the stalemate is caused by overt and covert obstructive tactics employed by the Senate Republican minority. These GOP Senators have always been in the minority. Therefore, they have become masters at killing legislation. This works well for most issues, but if you want to have input into the process and get any money for your district and constituents it is counterproductive.
If you are going to play the filibuster game and dilatory card, you should play the card all the way to the end. Last year they filibustered the session away. Then on the last day they chickened out and let the budgets pass. They were afraid to go home and face their constituents without passing the budgets. Thus, relinquishing any input into the budget process. The Republicans basically relegated their input and power to the omnipotent chairmen of the budget committees, essentially establishing Hank Sanders and Roger Bedford as czars of the budget.
This year, the Senate Republicans played the game of chicken all the way to the end. The Democrats thought they would blink, but they stayed the course and killed the entire session. Only time will tell if their constituents appreciate their. In the meantime, the Alabama party battle royale will move to Washington for the summer. We will soon see if the showdown between Don Siegelman and Karl Rove will play out before the House Judiciary Committee. Alabama Democrat Artur Davis sits on the panel and has advised Siegelman not to appear or testify. Davis is concerned Siegelman is setting himself up for a GOP attack. Siegelman would be forced to defend any and all allegations lodged against him during his administration and would not be able to hide behind his constitutional right allowed by a trial to not testify to all inquiries.
Rove has been adamant in denying that he had any part in Siegelman’s demise or prosecution. Rove has vehemently taken his accusers to task, claiming that his alleged use of Rainsville attorney, Jill Simpson, to take incriminating photos of Siegelman is ludicrous. Rove seemed to make a good point, regarding whether Simpson’s allegations have any credibility, when he wrote, “Didn’t it strike you as foolish for me to ask someone with no particular surveillance skills to follow Siegelman? Did you even consider that the Governor’s security detail might have taken note of an ample-sized, redheaded woman who kept showing up at his events with a camera?”
It should continue to be an interesting year in Alabama politics.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 70 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.