By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Thursday, April 30, the Alabama House of Representatives slowed to a crawl when a few members of the Black Legislative Caucus launched into a filibuster of the adoption of a ten minute calendar.
Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) was absent due to a hearing in his on-going public corruption trial, so Representative Mac McCutcheon (R-Capshaw) presided.
After a handful of uncontested local bills passed, the House considered adoption of a ten minute calendar. None of the bills were controversial so they all expected to pass. If a bill was debated more than ten minutes it would be carried over and the House would move on to the next bill on the calendar.
State Representative John Rogers (R-Birmingham) said that he was going to talk for ten minutes on every bill on the ten minute calendar, except the shrimp bill, unless the House agrees to drop the Birmingham Waterworks bill, SB89, that passed the House Commerce Committee on Wednesday.
SB89 would reform the Birmingham Waterworks Board (BWWB) so that counties where the BWWB has water customers or assets will be provided representation on the BWWB.
Additionally, SB89 would lo limit the terms of all board members including members appointed prior to this act becoming applicable to the board; limit the compensation and expenses of the board members; to specify that the board members would be covered by the State Ethics Law and could not be elected officials. SB89 would also provide for notice and a public hearing prior to the board adopting any rate increase; and specifies that the board would be subject to the Alabama Open Meetings Act.
Former State Representative Paul DeMarco (R-Homewood) said on Facebook, “Now that the legislation to reform the Birmingham Water Works Board sponsored by Senator Jabo Waggoner has passed the Alabama Senate the bill is ready to be heard in the House of Representatives. Of course, the Board will do anything to kill this bill and has now hired another firm to lobby against the bill. This makes five firms the Board has hired to try to stop the bill. The Board has spent over $360,000 of ratepayer dollars to work against the bill. Ask your state representatives to support this bill and put much needed reforms on the board.”
Rep. Rogers vigorously opposes the legislation.
State Representative Tim Wadsworth (R) said on Facebook, “Today is an example of why we need term limits. We have a 10 minute special order calendar with 21 good bills on it. If a bill is not passed in 10 minutes then the bill dies unless the bill is carried over. Rep John Rogers is talking for 10 minutes on each bill to kill each bill. So we will sit here for 3.5 hours doing absolutely nothing watching him talk about nothing. We have children from schools in the audience watching this waste of time. This is one time you can’t blame the House body. Accordingly there will be few updates since there is nothing to update.”
State Rep. Mack Butler (R-Rainbow City) said on Facebook, “We have a full calendar today but so far can’t get to it due to a filibuster by Rep John Rogers. We have a gallery full of students here today for the purpose of one bill that they have worked very hard on. Hopefully we will be able to get to their bill at some point today.”
Rep. Wadsworth said, “A few other people are talking about 10 minute special order calendar. Two hours are allowed to argue against special order calendar. Then after 2 hours, the 3.5 hours of additional wasted time comes.”
After lengthy speeches by Reps. Rogers, Knight, Jackson, and Moore the calendar was adopted.< The first bill SB58 designating the brown shrimp as the official State crustacean passed 101-1 after almost ten minutes of debate. Dozens of children from Fairhope were there in support of the shrimp bill or it likely would have also been killed. Rogers told the children, “I love you and I support your bill,” just before the ten minute limit would have expired. The next bill, HB23 sponsored by state Representative Dickie Drake (R-Leeds) would have required that Alabama schools teach cursive writing was filibustered by Rep. Rogers. Rep. McCutcheon asked Rogers, "Are you going to kill every bill on today’s calendar?" Rep. Rogers said, "Yes, I am. Some days I just like killing." Rep. McCutcheon declared the House adjourned until 2:00 pm on Tuesday. Rep. Butler said, “We did finally pass SB58 for the gallery full of students who worked on this bill. This is the one that designates the Brown Shrimp as the official State crustacean. John Rogers was going to filibuster each bill due to a bill that would be very positive to the Birmingham Water Board so we have adjourned. Back to the real world now!” Rep. Wadsworth wrote, “All bills on 10 minute special order calendar killed. House adjourned. Wasted day. House body not at fault for this one.”