Special session is special this time with important issues

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 28, 2005

The special session is upon us.

None of us know what will happen.

However, all of us have hopes.

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We all hope to get a General Fund budget and conclude the session in five days.

Some hope to take at least a step toward reorganizing the Senate by taking the budget away from the committee chair.

Some also hope to cut the Senate President Pro Tem’s budget as a symbolic victory in a continuing power struggle.

Others hope for an eminent domain bill or a sexual predator bill or a 10 mill bill.

A myriad of hopes intermingle in this moment.

My hopes were to get in and out the session in five consecutive days with a General Fund Budget.

On the third day, my hopes were dashed when a resolution passed the Senate by a 17 -16 vote to adjourn on Friday and come back on Tuesday.

It appears that several House leaders planned to attend a Democratic Leadership Conference in Ohio, on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

I had to cancel a speaking engagement in California set for that Tuesday.

We win some, we lose some.

I had hoped for a session tightly focused on the General Fund Budget.

However, when the call (agenda) was released, the Governor included 16 items, most unrelated to the budget.

It greatly changed the dynamics of the session.

We win some, we lose some.

Senator Roger Bedford, Chair of the Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee, was unable to get back from a father/son fishing trip in Canada for the brief opening session.

I agreed to sign all his bills as chief sponsor.

Later, it became an issue when it appeared I had a third of the bills on a special order when in reality I had only 2.

We win some, we lose some.

Because a special session must be tightly managed, the Senate President Pro Tem and Lieutenant Governor agreed to assign all bills to 2 committees – Finance and Taxation Education (F&TE), which I chair, and Finance and Taxation General Fund (F&TG), chaired by Senator Bedford.

Because 32 of the 35 senators serve on these two committees, it made sense.

However, a couple of senators were perturbed because no bills were assigned to committees they chair.

We win some, we lose some.

One of the items the Governor placed in the call was the eminent domain bill.

This bill rode in on a wave of public anger forged by a recent U. S. Supreme Court decree.

The Court ruled that local governments could, by condemnation, take private property to facilitate the construction of retail shopping centers, private residential developments, etc.

The public reaction was so strong many legislators were prepared to throw the baby out with the bath water.

We win some, we lose some.

Some of us felt the eminent domain bill should start only in the House since, by agreement, the General Fund would start only in the Senate.

In addition, we felt that Representative Jack Venable, who had unsuccessfully sponsored the bill last session but is too ill to attend this session, should be accorded the courtesy of sponsoring the bill that becomes law.

However, the political fire storm created such a great desire to consider the bill we had to call a second Finance and Taxation Education (F&TE) Committee meeting the same day to report the bill.

We win some, we lose some.

Another bill clouding the legislative horizon is the sexual predator bill.

This legislation also moved on powerful winds of political emotion.

It was introduced last session but failed to pass because of the power struggle in the Senate.

It was 21 pages then; now it is 49 pages.

It was quickly reported out of committee probably without a single senator thoroughly reading it.

It passed the Senate unanimously.

Now some want to include castration in the bill.

I say, “No way!” We win some, we lose some.

Efforts in the Senate to take away the General Fund Budget from the F&TG Chair fizzled.

Senator Bedford was most skillful in guiding the budget through the senatorial maze. The parallel efforts to cut the budget of the Senate President Pro Tem also came to naught.

The votes simply were not there. We win some, we lose some.

The House unexpectedly considered and passed the General Fund Budget.

I think they felt the budget was not moving according to script.

Particularly with the State Employees pay raise.

This surprise development created additional challenges.

We win some, we lose some.

As I write this Sketches, the Special Legislative Session has at least one more day.

The bills passed by the Senate still must be considered and acted upon by the House and vice versa.

Differences will have to be reconciled.

We still might lose some we have won or win some we have lost. We still don’t know what will happen.

We win some, we lose some.

Now on to the Daily Dairy.

Saturday – I did a workshop at the Twenty First Century Youth Leadership (21C) Center in Suttle, AL on health — physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

It was centered on my novel, “Death of a Fat Man.” I returned to Selma to work on various issues.

That night, I went back to the 21C Center to make remarks at the Banquet for the 20th Anniversary for 21C. I returned to Selma after midnight.

Sunday – I did Radio Sunday School, Radio Education and Sunday Review.

I participated in Sunday School before traveling to the Bethlehem Baptist Church in Hale County for the unveiling of a historic marker commemorating Freetown, a now non-existent town developed by former enslaved persons.

I returned to Selma for Sunday Dinner with Bobby and Fannie McKenzie. I worked on numerous matters including Sketches.

Monday – I met with Congressman Artur Davis and Selma Mayor James Perkins, Jr. for breakfast at Essie’s Restaurant in Selma.

I met with Lieutenant Governor Lucy Baxley and others.

I finished Sketches and participated in 2 meetings before traveling to Jefferson County for a meeting.

I talked to many leaders including former Senator Charles Steele, now the National President of SCLC.

I returned to Selma to work on F&TE matters in preparation for the special legislative session.

Tuesday – I talked with a number of citizens and leaders including Frank Chestnut, a Selma businessman, and SCLC President Charles Steele.

I traveled to Montgomery for meetings of the following: the Community Service Grants Committee; the Senate Leadership; the Senate Democratic Caucus; and the Alabama Senate.

I met individually with many lobbyists, senators and others. I signed and introduced 17 bills. After the day’s session, I participated in a series of meetings before going to dinner with a number of senators and other leaders.

I returned to Selma.

Wednesday – I returned to Montgomery for the following:

a Finance and Taxation Education Committee meeting; a Senate Session; a second Finance and Taxation Education Committee meeting; meetings about the budget; meetings about the eminent domain bill; and other meetings.

I met with Dr. Paul Hubbert and others into the night.

I briefly visited a social gathering before heading to Selma.

Thursday – I was back in Montgomery for the following:

a Finance and Taxation Education Committee meeting; a Rules Committee meeting; a Senate Session; a Democratic Caucus meeting; and other meetings.

The budget and other bills were debated and passed from the Senate.

I passed the 10 mill education bill, the sale of propane bill and a local bill for Wilcox County.

I had many individual meetings including one with Ginger Avery, Executive Director of Alabama Trial Lawyers Association.

I met with a number of senators and others over dinner before returning to Selma.

Friday – I went to Montgomery for a Finance and Taxation Education meeting, a Rules Committee meeting and a Senate Session. I talked individually with many leaders including Majority Leader Senator Zeb Little, State Superintendent Dr. Joe Morton and Representative James Thomas.

I participated in other meetings before returning to Selma where I participated in a radio program called A Public Conversation.

I began writing Sketches and handled other matters.

EPILOGUE – Sometimes we get so hung up on a little loss we fail to seize bigger opportunities.

Sometimes we get so overjoyed with a little win we end up losing bigger victories.

The challenge is to treat both winning and losing with equilibrium, keeping our eyes on the prize.