By Lee Hedgepeth
Alabama Political Reporter
“I’m sure if we can’t work some things out, we will.”
That is what Democratic Senate Minority Leader Vivian Figures told the Alabama Political Reporter earlier this week when asked whether her party would filibuster SB11, a bill that makes major changes in the way legislative department are structured and function. Turns out, her prediction was right on point.
Senate Bill 11, sponsored by Republican Senator Jimmy Holley, would make significant revisions to the organizational positioning of state entities like the Legislative Fiscal Office, the Legislative Reference Office, and the Alabama Law Institute, among others. It would also allow the continuance of power of current officeholders even after loss of election, until the time of the administration of the oath to the new candidate at the beginning of the next quadrennium.
“We think that the legislature itself should operate very properly and efficiently and Senator Holley’s bill basically does that,” Senator Marsh told the press earlier in the week.
Democrats on the floor of the Senate expressed concern about unintended consequences of the proposed legislation, and were in discussions to offer possible amendments. That process stopped, however, when, after adopting a GOP amendment to the bill, Senator Holley quickly moved for final passage of the proposal. Senator Bobby Singleton then sped to the lectern, denouncing the “smooth move” as “trickery” used to prevent Democratic amendments. “That was just disrespectful,” Singleton said. “I will have to be clotured.”
With that, Democrats began the delay. Senators Singleton and Sanders held the floor for several cloture petitions, including one for SB178, which GOP leadership described as “companion” legislation. At one point, the GOP prematurely filed a petition preventing them from amending their own bill. As a result, Republicans were forced to vote down their own petition, amend the bill, and file another one to end Democratic debate.
Earlier, Senator Figures proposed that language would be added guaranteeing that state employee pay would not be reduced under the new pay scheme that would be enacted under the proposal. Senator Holley said that she would have to take the Senate Pro Tem at his word. To this, Senator Figures remarked “Well the Pro Tem said he would let me speak on that Accountability Act and then turned in a cloture petition on me, so I love you Del… but once you get burned you remember that hot stove.”
In the end, SB11 and its companion SB178 did pass the Alabama Senate by a vote of eighteen to fifteen. Republicans Scott Beason, Paul Bussman, and Paul Sanford, and Independent Harri Anne Smith, however, all voted against the measure. Minority Leader Figures had told APR earlier this week that opposition against the bill was bipartisan, but that those on the other side of the aisle may be reluctant to “be vocal” about their dissent.
After its passage, Del Marsh admitted he knew the bill would be a “hard” one to pass. With it now out of the way, though, Marsh says the long promised noncontroversial session can now begin.
The Senate will reconvene again on Tuesday, January 28th.
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