There can be no doubt as to who is in control in the Alabama Legislature these days. The Republican majority in both the House and Senate is clearly running the show. They are firmly in control of the legislative agenda in both chambers. It will be interesting to see how their handling of this total control over the legislative process works out in the long run. In the first five days of the 2011 regular session, one major bill was sent to the Governor and another key bill in their “Handshake with Alabama” was sent to Gov. Bentley’s desk shortly after the Legislators returned to work on March 22nd from a week of spring break.
During the 2010 campaign Republicans, in their so-called Handshake with Alabama, promised to make the budgeting process more fiscally responsible, to help small businesses, to fight illegal immigration, to require photo identification to vote, to increase the tax deduction for employers who provide health insurance, and to require a secret ballot in union elections. They seem well on their way to accomplishing all of these things.
Some Goat Hill observers – whose dogs haven’t been in the legislative fights so far – believe that the GOP leadership in both houses could be making a big mistake by refusing to allow highly-important legislation to be fully debated before forcing a vote. Even though “extended debate” has been misused over the years in a number of legislative sessions, it is still a time-honored tradition. It’s also critically important that adequate debate in both Houses be allowed on important legislation. That’s even more important in the Senate to allow full debate on important legislation. To do otherwise could eventually cause problems for those who are now in control. The shoe may be on the other foot in the future and that’s a political reality. Hopefully, the leaders in both houses will take a closer look at how debate issues are handled in the future.
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