By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
The floor of the Senate yesterday descended into chaos as factions appeared in the Republican caucus. Not to let a political opportunity pass, Democrat leadership made political points by using amendments with cunning tactics.
Of course chaos is only a pattern we have yet to understand.
One man who did not miss the pattern was President Pro Tem Del Marsh, who at the end of the session took to the lectern and in stern rebuke declared, “I have had enough hypocrisy for one day.”
Leadership sometimes is telling truth to deceit and Marsh certainly rose to the occasion.
Honest politicians always hope that double-dealing will eventually be trumped by good policy. This sadly is seldom the case.
As Republicans filibustered fellow Republican it became clear that a special interest was tearing the body apart. The issue that divided the GOP members was insurance legislation sponsored or opposed by special interest.
Because one special interest could not have its way all of the insurance legislation was killed. One special interest killed the legislation of other special interests and the chaos pattern became clearer.
Like children this chaos says, “If I can’t have what I want, then I will take away what you want.” In fact the only interest that was served was that of the individual senator. Certainly not the public, but a special interest of one.
Do the Republicans offer a brave new day for Alabama or just more of the same?
After the meltdown of the first part of the session a much-needed break was taken to regroup and get back on point but this failed as well. Senator X, took the floor to berate and condemn the actions of fellow Senator Y, not over policy per se but because he felt Senator Y had slighted him. Senator X stole time from the Senate and therefore the people of Alabama not for good policy but because he was offended.
Of course the fact that Senator Y might be taking on a lawsuit that would greatly impact Senator X’s district was at the heart of the matter. Again a pattern emerges from the chaos. Even a casual observers starts to see that the patterns are similar, you may be taking something I want so, I will attack you.
The next battle came over Legislation that would allow voters to determine the salaries of Legislators.
The bill called for a constitutional amendment that would give voters the right to repeal the 61 percent pay raise that Democrats voted themselves in 2007. The bill was championed by Republican Senator Phil Williams who had never taken the pay increase. He was attacked by Senator Roger Bedford, a man who seems born for the strut and fret of the Senate floor. Bedford the architect of the 2007 pay raise attacked Williams saying, “I’ve seen some pretty slick backdoor pay raises since I have been down here under Wallace and under Seigleman -but you take the cake.”
Bedford was posturing for political points, as Williams intentions were far from enriching himself. William would be among the last senators to ever enrich himself at the public’s expense or to lie to make political hay. Yet here was Bedford accusing him of doing just that.
This is Politics 101, attack your opponents strength and try to make it look contrary to what it really is.
Bedford like a carnival magician began to pull amendments out of his pocket that would turn William’s bill into a political win for Democrats and specifically Bedford who has taken every pay raise.
In the end some watered-down bill passed the Senate but the honest intention of the bill may be lost forever. Marsh said, “What came out today was a monstrosity that we want to correct in conference committee.”
The people of Alabama were ill served by the Senate yesterday. Only political self-service triumphed. The chaos pattern now, clearly illuminated.
Most of the men and women who serve in the Alabama Senate are good and honest people, with few exceptions, so it is disheartening when they act as pawns in a devil’s bargain.
I am ashamed of how some in that body belittled themselves for such token gains.
The people of the state deserves better.