As we head into the final days of the regular Legislative Session it seems that very little will be accomplished. One may argue that this may be a good thing. A point can be made that we have enough laws as it is and we don’t need any more interference in our lives especially from the Alabama Legislature. There is even an old saying that nobody’s life, liberty, or property is safe when the Alabama Legislature is in session.

The only thing one can say is that they have agreed to disagree. Partisan bickering and feuding have slowed bills to a crawl. The partisan split has been so deep that Republicans and Democrats can’t even agree on issues they agree on. The only issue they have both agreed on was to call for a constitutional amendment vote to ban gay marriages in Alabama and they have disagreed on when to vote on that! This session has shown more partisanship than ever before.

When I went to the Legislature in 1982 the party affiliation was not an issue. We all ran as Democrats. It was more out of practice and tradition than philosophy. There was only a handful of Republican House members, less than 10 out of 105 and only two Republican State Senators out of 35. Most of them came from silk-stocking surburban districts of Jefferson, Mobile and Montgomery and just fit in with those of us who were conservative, probusiness leaning Democrats. It was much more fun and fraternal. We all got along well, but not so today.

The State Senate split on an organizational vote in January, 2003. The vote was 19-16 and those lines have been drawn in the sand and a good many important votes such as the Governor’s call to recess and have a Special Session back in February fell the same way with the same Senators voting the same way as in January 2003. They have separated into camps in the upper chamber and seem to truly dislike each other. The recent Senate vote on the education budget was a right down the line party vote. The Republicans wanted Riley’s proposed budget and the Democratic majority pressed for their own version 25-to-9. This makes for difficult bipartisan discussion and compromise which are the true art of politics and lawmaking. There is an old saying that making law is very similar to making sausage, you may like the finished product but you don’t care to watch it being made.

As predicted, Governor Riley lost his battle to change or end the DROP Bill. DROP is an acronym for Deferred Retirement Option Bill for state teachers and state employees. At issue is a savings to the state of 26-to-30 million dollars. The plan allows state workers who are at least 55 years of age and who have 25 years experience to keep working and enhance their retirement benefits. Riley would have been hard pressed to have won this battle against the powerful AEA and Dr. Paul Hubbert, King of Goat Hill. Hubbert was joined in the fray by Mac McArthur and his powerful State Employee’s Association. The passage of this measure had been the hallmark of their legislative agenda two years ago and they were not about to let an inexperienced Republican Governor interfere with their program. One has to admire Riley’s courage. He is like Don Quixote. Riley will probably have to look elsewhere to save money.