By Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY–On Tuesday and Thursday, the Alabama Senate moved at a snail’s pace. Each bill that was read coming in from committee was met with a request to read the title. While each senator has the right under the rules to do this, it can be used for public knowledge but also as a tool to slow the process.
On Tuesday, Senator Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) was the key force in invoking this rule. This and the hour available for each bill to be discussed was used to postpone the bill, SB257 that raises teachers allowances for classroom supplies. It was delayed to the next Legislative Day as the Sunset Law was invoked by constitutional mandate at 3:00 p.m.
As the Sunset Laws, laws that regulate agencies such as assisted living facilities, were brought to the floor the hour available for discussion was used, in full, for each law by Singleton on both Tuesday and Thursday. This is also a method available to both parties to slow or stop the process. This method is called filibustering.
According to Wikipedia, “A filibuster is a type of parliamentary procedure. Specifically, it is the right of an individual to extend debate, allowing a lone member to delay or entirely prevent a vote on a given proposal. It is commonly referred to as ‘talking out a bill,’ and characterized as a form of obstruction in a legislature or other decision-making body.”
The original word, used in the 1700s, for filibuster is a derivative of a Dutch word “free booter” is was used when discussing pirates because they plundered and looted. In english, it means “the right to debate.”
When asked to comment on the filibuster, Singleton replied,
“I am not filibustering.
“What I am doing is what is constitutionally mandated by the constitution that we do Sunset.
“All I am trying to do is to make sure that the citizens of the state of Alabama are educated about these bills. They need to know about the boards, how many members are on these boards, what the racial and ethnic makeup of these boards and that they have a place to go and make a complaint if in fact something goes on.
“Who gives the license for these particular boards and agencies now? A lot of people don’t know that across the state. Or where they are located.
“All we are trying to do is to make sure that the people understand that before we actually sunset them and give them the right to operate for another year.
“And that is constitutional. This is not a filibuster. We have the right to do that and we have a continuous hour to do that . And I am going to use that time to talk about it. Whether I use an hour on each and every one of them, I don’t know. But, I am going to use the time to make sure the people of Alabama understand.
APR: “So, since the Senate is available online on video, you are saying that it is on the web?
“Yes, because the video is on the website or that these agencies put their information on their website so people will know who they are.
“We are just being transparent, open government, that is what this party [the Republicans] asked for. That is all that I am trying to make happen.”
None of the information mentioned in Singleton’s statement was presented during the many hours of his discussion periods.
The Republican Senators were able to halt the process after lunch on Wednesday by invoking cloture enabling them to move through the Special Order Calendar, SR46.
Cloture is a method by which the Rules Committee can interject a Cloture Petition to end the debate. Senator J.T. “Jabo” Waggoner (R-Birmingham), Majority Leader, issued the petition. When it came up for vote it passed 22-9. This allowed the vote on SB257 which was found favorable by a vote of 31-1. Singleton was the only dessenting vote.
President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) immediately called for a Motion to Table. That passed 22-9.
After this bill, the Republicans were able to control the conversation, much to the outrage Singleton. They used the discussion time to invoke cloture on the remaining bills on the calendar.