Circumstances can make a difference

Published 10:13 pm Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Ain’t no fun when the rabbit got the gun. Senator Bobby Singleton proclaims this phrase with gusto. He is making the point that the hunter usually has the gun hunting the rabbit, but on rare occasions the rabbit gets the gun and hunts the hunter. Ain’t no fun for the hunter when the rabbit got the gun.

In the Alabama legislature, the majority nearly always has the gun. Republicans have super majorities in both the Alabama House and Senate.

The Alabama legislature has rules that determine how each body operates. During most of the legislative session, we have time to follow all these provisions. However, we usually waive many of these provisions so the legislative process can speed along. One of these constitutional provisions requires that bills be read out loud in their entirety. In fact, it states that each bill must be read three times. However, that provision has been corrupted by the courts to require a full reading only on third readings before final passage in each body. We were in the last four days of this session. The goal of legislative leader was to pass every important piece of legislation. However, in order to accomplish this goal, the cooperation of every senator was necessary.

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We started out reading the title to every bill for committee reports and messages, calling the long roll on every vote, debating every bill and reading every bill out loud before final passage. The Senate process ground to a slow crawl. Eventually some kind of agreement was worked out. However, there were two bills in which I engaged in extended debate. One bill would reduce the appeal rights for those sentenced to death. It was entitled the Fair Justice Act.  The other was the Confederate Memorial Bill entitled the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act. The Fair Justice Act is neither fair not just. It is a law that diminishes human life rather than enhances human life. The Alabama Memorial Preservation Act claims to be about preserving history. However, it is really about preserving monuments to those that fought doggedly to preserve slavery.

When we really slow down the process, we sometimes hurt ourselves. I had a local bill for Wilcox County that failed because of the slowdown. It also failed because the Senate Local Legislation Committee Chair held up the bill until the last day. Other local bills also died because committee reports were not received and acted upon in time. Sometimes the rabbit gets shot even when he/she got the gun.

One bill escaped the squeeze of circumstances forged by the rabbit hunting the hunter. It was the Autism bill.

As part of the rabbit with the gun strategy, two bills on redistricting were read at length before passage. One in the Senate required about 14 hours. The other in the House required about 16 hours.

The rabbit-hunter struggles not only had elements of Republicans versus Democrats but elements of white versus black.

The elements were compounded by an email sent by a House Member setting forth a strategy for oppressing monkeys.

Legislators and others took the monkey designation to mean African Americans. African American legislators became even more upset and even more determined.

So many other scenarios played out. Some helped the citizens of Alabama and some hurt.

Circumstances can be so powerful.  They can take the up down.  They can take the down up.  They can make the powerful powerless. They can make the powerless powerful.