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Senate Works the Nightshift

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

With just days left in the 2013 Alabama legislative session, Alabama Senators are sacrificing sleep to get work done.  Senators were up till midnight to pass a bill allowing the Governor to deal with developers to build a luxury beach resort at Gulf State Park.

Republicans in the Alabama Senate finally put down a filibuster after hours on Tuesday Night and passed the bill to allow the resort to be built at the state park.  Governor Robert Bentley (R) came down to the Senate floor to thank the Senators for passing the legislation which he says will lead to economic development.

Senator Tom Whatley (R) from Lee County said on Facebook, “Great day yesterday in the Senate with the passage of the State Parks bill that will create jobs and save our state parks. Here I am being congratulated by the Governor shortly after passage.”

Previously the state park system ran a dated lodge on the site. That was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan.  Gov. Bob Riley (R) had wanted to build a new modern resort run by hospitality professionals.  That effort however was tied up by litigation opposed to the luxury hotel.  This legislation will allow the luxury beach resort to be built.

Following that the Senators defeated legislation which would have allowed current legislators who have state jobs to continue holding both positions past the “double dipping” deadline.
Senator Bryan Taylor (R) from Prattville said on Facebook, “Three years ago, I gave up my state job to run for office because it was the right thing to do. It’s just not possible to give the taxpayers their money’s worth in a state job while serving in the Legislature nearly 4 months out of the year. We passed a ban on double dipping by lawmakers (the practice of holding a second state job while serving in the Legislature) — the same ban in place in most states for decades. I’m glad tonight that the Senate refused to reverse that important reform.”

Rather than going home, the Senate convened their Wednesday session at 12:01 am.

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Senator Bryan Taylor (R) from Prattville said on Twitter, “Ala. Senate convened Wed. session at 12:01 a.m. Right now debating Tim Tebow bill (allows homeschool children to play public school sports).”

Senator Bill Holtzclaw (R) from Madison said on Facebook, “Yes, I called “Attention on Deck!” on the Alabama Senate Floor – as any good Marine would. The Senate rolled past midnight today…err, yesterday, and had to follow procedure for a new legislative day with our prayer and pledge. The prayer is normally given by a pastor and the pledge by a student, serving as a page. It is a rare event that we roll into the next day but we must hold on to the traditions! I was honored to have lead the Senate in the pledge tonight…err, this morning.”  “Senate pulls an all nighter – going strong at midnight…tomorrow is here!”

Senator Tom Whatley (R) from Lee County said on Twitter, “Senate goes back into session at 12:01 am – working all night!”  “The Senate is debating the “Tim Tebow” at 1230 am, things get chippy around here this time of day.”

Sen. Cam Ward (R) from Alabaster said on Twitter, “AL Senate STILL in session. Now debating the Tim Tebow bill. This is time of session when nerves get raw.”

A motion to table the legislation was defeated after 1:00 am 12 to 12.

After 2:00 am Sen. Slade Blackwell (R) from Mountain Brook said on Twitter, “Wow. We are still in session?”

Despite the late hour, Senator Rodger Smitherman (D) from Birmingham continued to lead a filibuster of the Tim Tebow Bill.  At 2:51 am the Republicans successfully passed a cloture vote to cut off debate.

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The Tim Tebow Bill however was defeated after 3:00 am on a 10-21 vote.

If passed the legislation would have allowed students who are homeschooled to participate in extracurricular activities at the school that they are zoned too, but do not otherwise attend.  Proponents point out that homeschool families are forced to pay taxes for public schools they do not use and feel that homeschool kids should be allowed to play for their local football, baseball, softball, wrestling, volleyball, cheerleading teams, etc. as well as activities like choir, art, and band.

Opponents worry that allowing such participation would only encourage more people to home school and claim that homeschoolers should enroll their children in the public school if they want to participate in any sport or activities there.

Florida has had similar legislation for over a decade.  The most famous participant was Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow.  His mom taught him at home and he still played High School football.  That arrangement is forbidden currently under Alabama law.

The Senate then recessed until 2:00 pm.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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