Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Day 1 2006 Alabama Legislative Session

Day one of the 2006 Alabama Legislative session found me in Montgomery, AL bright and early at 9 a.m.

I had looked around the legislative websites, but did not see a time posted for the official opening of the session.
I am not sure what possessed me to think the legislature would actually convene at 9 a.m., but that's what I thought and that resulted in me arriving way too early and having extra time on my hands.

I explored the statehouse for a little bit, stopping by the information boards and gathering the information on sessions I need to be at.

The Alabama State House is a nice building.

One of the things I like about it is that you can still smoke inside...or at least in the ladies bathroom.
That's very handy.
And no one bitches about it.
That's even handier.

While I was exploring I ran into this guy on the elevator.
SENATOR BRADLEY BYRNE who was also one of last night's guests on For the Record.

I ran into some close friends, political party affiliates and co-lobbyists outside and we all made our way into the fray to the Gallery to find seats.

The Gallery is situated one floor above the house floor. It is enclosed with tinted glass and equipped with an intercom type sound system.

The session was suppossed to be called to order at 12:00
A few minutes before this time the speaker began requesting that everyone come in and take their seats so that the days work could begin.

The legislators milled slowly about greeting each other, chatting happily and paying zero attention to the speaker and his repeated requests that everyone come to order.

He banged his gavel loudly and announced that the legislature was now called to order and that it was time for opening prayer.

That announcement did what he had previously been unable to do, in that silence fell and everyone (with the exception of myself and two other comrades) bowed their head and closed their eyes. You could practically hear neck bones and tendons creak as chins snapped down onto chests and eyes closed.

It was eerie.
And a little annoying. I don't pay them to pray on my dime. And the Rev. Jackson giving the prayer went on and on and on and on and on and he wasn't particularly good at praying.

Even though I am a non-believer, I did grow up here in Alabama and I guess you could say 'I learned to fear Jesus in a small town' and I know a good prayer when I hear one.

For instance, the reknowned civil rights leader Rev. Joseph Lawson.....now that man can pray...and can preach too. I saw him in Nashville a few years ago giving the "what-for" to US House Majority Leader, Bill Frist, and a few other US Senators who attended that particular service. I left that service thinking that if there was a preacher in Alabama who could preach like Joseph Lawson....you'd be able to find me on the front bench every Sunday.

But I digress. This man could not pray. He seemed unaware of this though.

Finally it ended and it was then time for the pledge.

I stood, placed my hand over my heart and began to recite along with everyone else until it got to the 'under god' part, at which point I raised my voice with the correct "INDIVISIBLE". That caused me to finish up a second or two earlier than everyone else, which earned me some odd looks from those seated in the Gallery around me...but hey...to each their own.

As the pledge ended the floor once again erupted into what resembled the first day back at school after summer break. Order was not to be had. One of my friends said she had seen better behaved kindergarteners.

As we were discussing how much this scene reminded us of being back in high school the speaker announced that some legislator had handed in a bill and forgot to put their name on it, thereby solidifying in my mind the image of a bunch of distracted children.

"You Have Now Entered The Twilight Zone" dew..dew..dew..dew

Rep. Demetrius Neweton, apparently wishing to at least appear to be working in front of all the cameras took the floor and said,

"Can we all please take our seats so we can at least look how we spose' to look today?"

It was a comical but vain attempt.

Next up was Rep. John Rogers.

Mr. Rogers is one of the more colorful members of the house of representitives. A freind of mine who has known him for years and lives in his district told me this story.

Last year someone in the media made a remark about all of the Representitives wearing blue suits to work all the time.

A few days later, Rep. Rogers who is a very large man, came to the State House decked out in a wild, sky-blue, leather suit. When one reporter asked him how many cows it took to make it he responded

"Mam..it took the whole damn herd."

And about two years ago, when the Alabama anti-sex toy crusade was wasting tax dollars by the bushel, Rep. Rogers spoke against the ban on sex toys while waving a large dildo around on the House floor. I wasn't there to witness that, but I sure wish I had been.

Yes indeed, he is colorful and much loved by his constituents. He is also very hard to understand when he is speaking which makes him even more entertaining. Today for instance he took the floor to introduce a bill and, despite the fact that he talked for three or four minutes about the bill, the only words I was able to understand were,
'black baseball player, dead, Birmingham Blackwings, and Nashville.'

What the bill was about is anyone's guess.

Next up was another very colorful personality in Alabama politics.

Today Rep. Holmes tried to introduce a resolution he characterized as a 'patriotic support the war' resolution.
What I gathered, by the time the fray this caused was over, was that it was more like a 'we support the troops but not the war', kind of resolution and, if that turns out to be the case, then I would certainly support Rep. Holmes in his efforts to adopt such a resolution.

Rep. Holmes asked that the rules be suspended and a recorded vote be taken to adopt the resolution. Someone opposed him. They argued back and forth for a while.

Towards the end Rep. Holmes threatened to call FOX NEWS and report to them that a civil rights leader in Alabama introduced a resolution to support the war and that it was not allowed to come up for a vote. He also threatened to identify the race of those voting to FOX NEWS.
"I'll show FOX NEWS just how patriotic folks down in Alabama is."

This caused absolute pandamonium.

I was almost rolling in the floor along with many other spectators.

When this was over it was decided that the legislature would go into recess until 3 p.m.
At that point they had been in session a little over an hour.

During the break I met with some differnt legislators to discuss the various bills related to prison, sentencing reform and medical marijuana. Everyone from last session is still supportive. We also managed to find a Senate co-sponsor for the Compassionate Care Act today which is excellent progress. I am not going to reveal who it is. I figure it is best to let them do that in their own time and in their own way.

So, another session has begun and I got more accomplished today than the people who get paid to be there and get things accomplished.

I'll head back down in the morning to sit in on the Judiciary Committee meetings debating the sentencing reform measures that have been presented to them. Hopefully tomorrow will be a much more productive day for our elected officials than today was.

Thanks to my supporters who answered my call yesterday and ensured that I will be able to spend a great deal of time in this legislative session 'doin' the Lawds work'!


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