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Raw nerves in Senate leads to confrontation

By Beth Clayton

The Alabama Senate had an eventful session, even though they only addressed routine business yesterday.

Yesterday evening, Democrats were outraged when they accused Kay Ivey of ruling unfavorably to favor the Republicans. When session opened at 2:00, a dispute erupted almost immediately over a separate contention from the Democrats.

Due to extensive filibusters of routine legislation and a full special order calendar, the Senate was unable to complete the agenda before recessing from the Tuesday session around 3:00 a.m. on Wednesday.

Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) kept Twitter informed for the duration of the session. “This is time of session when nerves get raw,” Ward tweeted around 2:00 a.m.

Nerves didn’t seem to be refreshed when session resumed this afternoon. It didn’t take five minutes for Senators Quentin Ross (D-Montgomery) and Del Marsh (R-Anniston) to lock horns over a quick vote on SB7.

“We’re simply operating the chamber under the rules of the senate,” Marsh said.

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Since the session simply recessed at 3:00 a.m., Ivey was able to reconvene using the roll from 11 hours earlier, although there were only around ten Senators on the floor. Votes were then counted for a room full of Senators, many of whom were on their way to the floor from committee meetings, because the quorum did not need to be reestablished when returning from a recess.

“That’s the story of this leadership and the way they’ve been functioning but that’s fine. We have a few more days left and we’ll rock and roll as such,” Ross said on the Senate floor.

“I don’t know what they’re unhappy about except for the fact that they [Republicans] came to the chamber late. That doesn’t mean we’re going to shut down and not do business,” Marsh said.

“You’re in power now. You’re able to do whatever you want to do,” Ross said. “Why is it that when you have a supermajority and you can pass anything you want, that you don’t want to let people debate and discuss the issue?”

Ross said that he had been promised a chance to address his concerns over parts of the bill by the Chair of the Education committee, but was denied the opportunity because they passed the legislation so quickly with no debate.

Marsh explained that, after Ivey rang the bell, he did not offer a calendar because they automatically continued with the last bill on the special order calendar before the recess.

“It’s more important to them to say they’re being mistreated than to say that we, many times, go out of our way to try to accommodate them,” Marsh said.

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“I even offered to recall the bill that passed if they had an amendment they needed to add to it. They said they did not. They didn’t want to recall the bill,” Marsh said.

Ross later explained that his major problem was that these tactics are simply unnecessary and only contribute to the distrust among the already contentious body. “You have the power to run over me anyway,” he said.

Later in the evening, while many Senators were in their offices or away at dinner, Democrats were actually able to win a vote.
Senator Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) motioned to adjourn,but Ivey ruled that Senator Paul Bussman (R-Cullman) actually had the floor. Democrats voted 7-5 to overturn Ivey’s ruling.

Ivey, however, allowed a motion by Bussman to recess for 15 minutes, rather than adjourn for the evening. Ivey’s ruling in favor of Bussman to allow everyone a chance to get back into the chamber.
The Democrats who were in the majority in the chamber called foul and chaos returned to the floor.

As the Senate recessed, Bussman and Ross began yelling at one another, causing Senator Phil Williams to step between them and Pat Harris, Secretary of the Senate, to walk Bussman away.

According to South Union Street blog, “Bussman, as he worked through routine bills that allow boards and agencies in the state to continue to operate, then refused to answer questions or take comments from colleagues for the rest of the night.”

South Union Street also reported that Ivey said that she was following the Senate rules.

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The Senate will reconvene at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday. The Senate was able to complete routine legislation today and will pick up with a long special order calendar.

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