By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
The start of the 2012 Alabama Legislative session had an atmosphere similar to the first day of school. The halls were filled with animated bodies, smiling faces, hugs and greetings and a few jockeying for position as to who are the cool kids in the class.
Yet, there was the serious undertone of men and women who had a job to do and realized that what was about to begin was important, fragile and yet, enduring.
While the halls were filled with lawmakers, lobbyist and hordes of aids, outside a crowd of Alabama Tea Party activist gathered. From women and men in suits to American flag shirts and hats glittered red, white and blue they descended on the Statehouse.
“We are here to remind the lawmakers who they work for !” sounded from the podium as I approached the scene. Two men in dark suits with an air of purpose walked just a few feet ahead of me. One of the men said, “What is this a Scott Beason rally?” Sure enough signs proclaiming Scott Beason for Congress were the dominate decoration on the lawn outside the entrance to the Statehouse. “I think it’s a good thing,” said the man’s companion, to which his friend gave him a doubtful look. The man who replied, “I support Beason, he is a good guy, I mean it, I think it is good he is running.” His friend seemed to shake his head and I lost them as we crossed into the Tea Party crowd.
It was a small gathering of around two hundred Tea Partiers, much less than in years past.
But what does the Tea Party really have to be excited about? This legislature is hardly going to stray far from the conservative agenda that brought them to power in 2010.
If anything this year’s legislative work will be more about cleaning up some details of last year and implementing other conservative reforms.
At the Tea Party rally, Scott Beason did speak and after reminding the crowd that Alabama was a great state with a proud and determined people, he spoke proudly about the immigration bill he had championed and said, “The people of Alabama believe in the rule of law, and that is what that bill is about.” Not to put to fine a point on it but people actually cheered. They understood Beason, they believed his motivation.
Others who spoke were Rep. Mike Ball (R-Madison) and Sen. Dick Brewbarker (R-Montgomery). One could not help noticing the handsome, well-dressed man surround by three small children, who kept circling his legs. Their mother conspicuously expecting a forth child smiled as the kids blew leaves from their hards, the magic awe of childhood in full view. When their father Ben DuPré head of Personhood Alabama took to the stage, his children didn’t seem to notice there where more interesting thing to explore, but their dad spoke with passion about the need to protect every unborn soul and the people present heard him.
The Tea Party crowd lingered on through the day but as night fell and small gathering took place of those opposing the state’s immigration law.
The highlight of the day was Governor Bentley’s State of the State Address. The capital was full to capacity as Lt. Governor Kay Ivey gaveled the session to order.
The tone and tenor set the stage for the business before the state’s lawmakers, Bentley said, “As we reflect on the first year of my administration and chart a course for the future, I want us all to remember, state government belongs to the people of this state. As public servants chosen to lead this state, we must begin every day with a commitment to give Alabamians every opportunity to make their lives better.”
Governor Bentley is a serious and empatethic man, perhaps years as a doctor has given him this pathos. Perhaps it is his piety, whatever the reason, when he speaks of being a public servant, only the most cynical among us would not be taken by its sincerity.
As I looked from the Governor to the upper chairs behind him, I saw Sen. Del Marsh, Lt. Governor Kay Ivey and Speaker Mike Hubbard. All smart successful people, the men and a woman who have in their personal and private lives reached a level of success only dreamed of by most Alabamians. Wealth, power, prestige all something they had before entering public service. The Governor, Lt. Governor, the President Pro Tem and the Speaker do not need government jobs, they have already achieved the American dream, and yet, there they were, ready to serve the people of Alabama.
The first day back in the capital was at once great fun and consciously sobering, much faces or state and many will live and prosper or fade and fail because of what happens the next few months. In to these hands have the people of our state put their trust and hopes, let’s pray that these women and men have the courage and fortitude to live up to so great a responsibility.