By Lee Hedgepeth
Alabama Political Reporter
Yesterday afternoon, the Alabama House of Representatives convened at 3:30 to start the business of the 26th legislative day – and night – of this year’s regular session. With Democrats outraged at events occurring Tuesday in the body over the Education Trust Fund budget, what began as a slow day turned into an overnight legislative marathon, with the body passing a multitude of bills contained on two rather lengthy special order calendars. The House adjourned at 11:59, and convened for a “new” legislative “day” at 12:01 am.
On Tuesday, the House passed the Education Trust Fund budget sent to the floor from the House Ways and Means Education Committee by the slimmest of margins, 51-47. The budget, which does not include either a teacher and retiree raise or full funding of the Public Employees Health Insurance Program, had raised serious questions with Democrats and some GOP members, with many pointing out that Governor Bentley’s budget included both full funding for PEEHIP and a two percent pay raise.
The main issue arose, though, when it became clear that GOP members were filibustering their own budget by holding both podiums in an effort to prevent Democratic amendments to the budget, which includes the funding of both higher education and K-12 public schools.
As a result of the budget battle Tuesday, House Democrats pledged to filibuster every Republican bill on the agenda yesterday, and they did just that, slowing down the process significantly and setting up the scene for this session’s first overnight legislative binge.
Over the approximately eleven hour filibustering bout, GOP members ended debate on nearly a dozen bills, with many of them being high profile pieces of legislation.
“I think this is the seventh cloture in ten or twelve hours,” said Selma Democrat Darrio Melton, “and on the seventh day, God rested.”
At one point, House Minority Leader Craig Ford offered Red Bull to the members of the party opposite.
As 11:59 and the end of the 26th legislative day approached, a Democratic bill on the agenda calendar was reached – a bill concerning hazardous waste landfills sponsored by Representative AJ McCampbell. With time ticking down, GOP Representative Bridges joked that a bill dealing with daylight savings time should be brought up so that Rep. McCampbell could “have another hour.” He also jokingly offered to help it pass if a ten commandments amendment could be added.
At the end of the legislative “day,” 11:59, a vote was taken on Rep. McCampbell’s bill and it passed by a vote of 97-1.
After the House reconvened – two minutes later – the pledge and prayer were re-observed, with Congressional Black Caucus Chair Napoleon Bracy giving the invocation.
Then – more controversy…
The House took up Senate Bill 11, which, as Alabama Political Reporter has written, is a major reorganization of the legislature and its associated agencies.
Organizational charts showing how and what SB11 changes are available on out Twitter at www.twitter.com/alreporter
“What do the staff of the legislature think about this?” Representative Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham, asked of the bill’s sponsor, with his only response being: “There has been some apprehension.”
Later, after two cotton-related bills, the bill authorizing UAB to conduct a medical study on epileptic patients – what has become known as “Carly’s Law”– came to the House floor for a vote, around 2:15 am. The bill is named after a Pelham police officer’s daughter who suffers from a debilitating epileptic disorder.
Originally, the bill had not been a narrow, authorized study, but a broad general protection from prosecution for possessing so-called CBD-oil, the marijuana derivative drug in question. This has led some Democrats to claiming that calling the UAB study legislation “Carly’s Law” is a misnomer.
Finally, and only a very few minutes before the body adjourned, Minority Leader Craig Ford moved to suspend the rules to bring forward a bill banning bestiality out of regular order. Ford said that it was best this way, as no children were around and no one was in the gallery. “Maybe nobody’s watching,” the Gadsden Democrat said.
House Representatives, State House workers, and members of the press began leaving South Union Street around 2:30 am.