Local legislation has its own dynamics

Published 9:59 pm Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Local legislation has its own dynamics in the Alabama Legislature. Sometimes the dynamics are smooth. Sometimes they are turbulent.  Sometimes they are just plain crazy. I just experienced the twisting and turning and up and down and round and round dynamics of local legislation. It was something to behold.

Local legislation pertains to just one county or municipality. The local delegation, that is legislators who represent the particular county or municipality, determine virtually everything about the legislation although other legislators generally vote for it.  It’s called the Local Courtesy Rule — you vote for my local legislation no matter what and I will vote for yours no matter what. If a particular legislator votes against too many local bills, other legislators may not vote for his/her local legislation. Local legislation has its own dynamics.

Historically, the exceptions to the local courtesy rule are gambling or hazard waste bills. The Senate has a special rule requiring local gambling or hazard waste legislation to go to two committees: first to the appropriate local legislation committee; and then to the appropriate general legislation committee. Many legislators refuse to vote for gambling or hazard waste bills and some even refuse to vote for local taxes. Local legislation has its own dynamics.

I opposed a gambling bill involving Greene County because, among other things, it impacted other counties and was not truly local. Others also opposed or refused to vote for it. I filibustered the bill for a few minutes before a cloture petition was filed and adopted. Since the local bill was a Constitution amendment, 21 votes (3/5 of the entire Senate) were required to pass. The bill received just 17 votes so it failed.  However, the turbulence it unleashed continued until the very last second of the legislative session. Local legislation has its own dynamics.

After the failing vote on the Greene County gambling bill, Senator Bobby Singleton announced that he would oppose all local legislation by any senator who did not support his bill. I had three local bills for Wilcox County and three for Washington County and one for Monroe County.  None involved gambling or hazard waste.

Senator Greg Albritton, who also represents Washington and Monroe counties, had also opposed the Greene County gambling bill. His local bills were on the hit list. Albritton focused on the bills for Washington and Monroe counties while I focused on the Wilcox County bills. Local legislation has its own dynamics.

When our local bills came up under the uncontested local legislation agenda, Senator Singleton threatened a filibuster. We secured unanimous consent to carry over the bills to the call of the chair, so they could be considered at any later time. This allowed the local legislation process to move along. However, when I asked the presiding officer, Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey, to bring up my local bills, she refused. Local legislation has its own dynamics.

I spoke to Senator Singleton twice about the Wilcox County bills. He said he intended to continue opposing these bills. I allowed the matter to rest for a couple of days. Then, with just two legislative days left, I was determined to change the dynamics. I filed a written notice contesting all local legislation. I then asked the lieutenant governor to bring up the first of the three local Wilcox bills carried over to the call of the chair. This time she called up one of the bills. Senator Singleton commenced a filibuster of that local bill that lasted for hours including several recesses to work out the impasse. Eventually, Senate leaders decided to cloture Senator Singleton just to get the bill out of the way so other general legislation could be considered. I voted against the cloture petition even though cloture would help me.  The petition passed and the local bill passed. One down and two to go. Local legislation has its own dynamics.

On the very last day of the legislative session, I again filed a contest to prevent consideration of any local legislation. Two Republican senators also filed contests. Everything was all bottled up with 37 local bills to be considered. Around 11p.m., with only an hour to go before midnight ended this legislative session, Senate leaders presented a special order with all local bills except those carried over to the call of the chair.  For Senate purposes, the special order caused these local bills to be treated as regular bills rather than local legislation. The bills left out were for Wilcox, Monroe and Washington counties. I was between a rock and a hard place. I could filibuster and kill all 37 pieces of local legislation or find a way to get my bills on that special order of local bills. That could only happen by unanimous consent of every senator. I asked and consent was granted.  Local legislation has its own dynamics.

There were so many other twists and turns, but suffice it to say that with one minute to go in this legislative session, the last Wilcox County local bill came up for consideration. It passed as the clock struck midnight.

I thanked Senator Singleton because he could have killed my local legislation and a lot of other local bills. I could have done the same. Local legislation has its own dynamics.

Even things designed to be uncomplicated become complicated when human emotions become involved.

Local legislation is designed to be simple.  However, when our likes and dislikes, loves and hates, needs and greeds become involved, the uncomplicated becomes very complicated.