Turn, Turn, Turn

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In 1965, the musical group The Byrds recorded Turn, Turn, Turn. It has been said that this recording is the most widely distributed recording of biblical verses with the exception of The Lord’s Prayer. Taken from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 the words are familiar to most everyone:

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

This past week has had several events that can be tied to the verses of this song. Last Friday, after this publication was distributed news of the death of longtime House Member Joe Carothers was made known. Joe was an institution around the Alabama State House. A staunch supporter of education issues and a devoted Auburn fan, Joe was one of the old-school Representatives who believed that his word was his bond. The verse above “A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;” is most appropriate when thinking about Joe. Joe had been ill for some time but never lost hope. He planted seeds of friendship and at the visitation and funeral this past week his family reaped the fruit borne by the friendships planted by Joe throughout his very full life. Joe will be missed.

As the week in the Legislature began, it became very apparent that it was going to be a controversial week. House Health Committee Chair April Weaver’s (R-Brierfield) legislation restricting the use of Fetal Tissue went to the Floor. Seen as an attempt to limit actions such as those that have been reported in connection with Planned Parenthood, this legislation was seen as another fundamental difference between the Republicans and Democrats in the House. The vote on this legislation passed primarily along party lines after lengthy debate. Another couple of pieces of legislation that were included in the House Republican Caucus’ Agenda, statewide control of setting a minimum wage and a constitutional amendment reaffirming Alabama’s statute declaring Alabama a right-to-work state, came to the Floor. The minimum wage legislation came out of the State Government Committee Tuesday on a vote of 10-3 (or 10-6 if Representative John Rogers’ (D-Birmingham) request to have his vote counted three times and reported by the Committee Clerk as such). This legislation was on the Floor on Wednesday and the subject of a lengthy filibuster along party lines. Perhaps the verse “A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;” is appropriate for this legislation. The Democrats were trying to kill and it can be suggested that the Republican majority was trying to heal by allowing debate to continue far longer than many in the House had expected. The right-to-work amendment died on the Floor the first time it was considered partly due to the extended vote on the minimum wage legislation. For an amendment to pass it requires a 3/5 vote of the elected Membership. Though the amendment passed by an overwhelming vote only 60 votes were recorded in favor. Requiring 63 votes, the amendment failed. It was brought back up on Thursday and this time there were enough votes for the legislation to move on to the Senate.

In the Senate, SB 15, legislation unearmarking some $400 million tax dollars was the subject of a Public Hearing and vote. This legislation would remove earmark protection of approximately $200 million dollars for mental health and approximately $150 million from DHR. Every person who spoke at the Public Hearing opposed the legislation. Committee Chairman Trip Pittman (R-Montrose) commented that it was interesting that none of the agency heads of the affected agencies were in attendance at the Hearing. He further commented that he, Pittman, “understood” that they had been instructed by the Governor’s Office not to get involved. It is truly a shame when the Commissioners of agencies that serve the most vulnerable populations are not allowed to advocate for the populations they serve. Chairman Pittman also announced that the General Fund budget would be in Committee in the coming week. Though a Public Hearing on the budget was requested, the meeting is posted without there being a Public Hearing. If, as assumed, the General Fund budget comes out of Committee on Wednesday it could conceivably be on the Senate Floor as early as Tuesday, March 1. Though all of the right things were said by Members of the Committee, the result was a vote to send SB 15 to the full Senate for consideration. “A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;”

With the Legislature completing seven of its allotted 30 Legislative Days, the Legislature is scheduled to meet for two days next week. Assuming that schedule, they will be nearly 1/3 of the way through the Session in a very quick time. It is conceivable that the House could finish dealing with the mandatory Sunset Bills by the time they would normally only be starting the Sunset process. With the budget and Sunset Bills moving at a breakneck speed rumors of an early adjournment continue to swirl. At some point, the love that has broken out in the Senate is destined to hit a rough patch and things could very well slow down. The speed with which this Session is moving favors those looking to kill legislation and puts added pressure on those who need to pass legislation.

In the continuing saga of Speaker Mike Hubbard’s pending trial yet another bizarre event happened this past week. Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) Secretary Spencer Collier was put on three months “Medical Leave” immediately after the press disclosed that Collier had given an affidavit about ALEA’s conversations with Baron Coleman. According to the Governor, Collier had been specifically told NOT to give an affidavit and did so anyway. In another event, nearly 1/3 of the Members of the House sent a letter to the United States Attorney General and to the U. S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama asking that the Federal Government take over the Hubbard case. The U. S. Attorney has responded that this is a state matter and that the Federal Government will not get involved. The next major milestone in the Hubbard case comes on Thursday, March 3. At the Hearing scheduled for that date the affidavits of Coleman, Collier and perhaps others will be considered and likely, a final decision on the trial date will be made.

If one were to write a melodramatic political opera, the activities of the Alabama Legislature and surrounding events would be a good basis for consideration. Were these events written in the form of a novel most would believe that it was a great work of fiction. Sadly, it would be nearly impossible to make up the escapades of the Alabama Legislature and attendant government agencies and offices.

Have a great weekend.

The Alabama House will reconvene at 1:30pm on Tuesday, February 23, 2016
The Alabama Senate will reconvene at 2:00pm on Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The views and opinions contained in this report do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the clients of Public Strategies, LLC