If We Couldn’t Laugh, We Would All Go Insane

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The title above was penned by the great American “philosopher” and songwriter Jimmy Buffett in his song Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes. This song very well could become the anthem of those who are in the Alabama Legislature or those who regularly work with the Alabama Legislature.

Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes Lyrics
I took off for a weekend last month

Just to try and recall the whole year.

All of the faces and all of the places,

Wonderin’ where they all disappeared.

I didn’t ponder the question too long;

I was hungry and went out for a bite.

Ran into a chum with a bottle of rum,

And we wound up drinkin’ all night.

(Refrain)

It’s those changes in latitudes,

Changes in attitudes nothing remains quite the same.

With all of our running and all of our cunning,

If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.

Reading departure signs in some big airport

Reminds me of the places I’ve been.

Visions of good times that brought so much pleasure

Makes me want to go back again.

If it suddenly ended tomorrow,

I could some how adjust to the fall.

Good times and riches and son of a bitches,

I’ve seen more than I can recall

(Refrain)

I think about Paris when I’m high on red wine,

I wish I could jump on a plane.

And so many nights I just dream of the ocean.

God, I wish I was sailin’ again.

Oh, yesterdays are over my shoulder,

So I can’t look back for too long.

There’s just too much to see waiting in front of me,

And I know that I just can’t go wrong With these,

(Refrain)

For those of us involved in the political process we witness events virtually every day that in the “real world” might not make sense. We see legislation introduced on virtually every conceivable (no pun intended with the use of this word) subject from gun control and Second Amendment rights, to GLBT rights or restrictions, to legislation either granting/affirming freedom of religion to freedom from religion and the list goes on. We witness extended debate/filibusters on legislation that will ultimately pass by a unanimous vote (loving it to death) only to prevent moving on to legislation that was the ultimate target of the slowdown because one group or another does not want to get to a particular subject. That is where the final line in the refrain of this song comes in – “If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane”.

This past week we witnessed extended debate on several Bills. The two most noteable were Bills sponsored by Representative Connie Rowe (R-Jasper) and Senator Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa). Rep. Rowe’s legislation would allow electronic “wagering” on fantasy sports contests in Alabama. Sen. Allen’s legislation would require the approval of the Alabama Legislature before any “historical monument” could be removed, thereby prohibiting a local governmental body from acting on their own to take down a monument in their own jurisdiction. No opinion is offered as to the merit of either proposal. Sen. Allen’s legislation passed the Senate after extended debate over two days and then, only after the debate was clotured. Rep. Rowe’s legislation is still stalled in the House in somewhat of a no-man’s land. There are many Members of the Legislature, as well as others, who wonder aloud why subjects such as these take up so much valuable time when issues such as the General Fund and Education Trust Fund Budgets have serious challenges. Granted, the Education Trust Fund Budget will be on the House Floor on Tuesday, March 8, and the General Fund Budget is scheduled for consideration in the House Ways and Means Committee – General Fund on Wednesday, March 9. The timetable for consideration of both Budgets is moving at lightning speed by comparison to the recent past. “If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane”.

In other action this week we saw a Circuit Court Judge in Jefferson County rule that Alabama’s practice of Judges overruling Jurys in Death Penalty cases and sentencing capital case defendants to death when the Jury has recommended life in prison without the possibility of parole to be unconstitutional. It is expected that this decision will be appealed. “If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane”.

In another major decision by the Alabama Supreme Court the Court issued an opinion today declaring that the SCOTUS decision on same sex marriage overruled the Alabama Constitutional prohibition on the practice and thus prevents Alabama’s Probate Judges from refusing to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. A copy of the full order from the Alabama Supreme Court is attached. Below is an excerpt from the Order and ruling.

A decision by this court cannot stop the issuance of federally-mandated same-sex government-marriage licenses; as… previously expressed, this Court has never been in a position definitively to rule on whether Alabama’s laws prohibiting [same-sex licenses] were constitutional. …If anyone believes that this Court can issue a ruling on these requests that would allow our probate judges to legally continue Alabama’s prohibition on the issuance of same-sex government-marriage licenses, such belief is refuted by 200 years of law and practice. We can express our well-founded frustration at the unprecedented nature of [the U.S. Supreme Court order legalizing same-sex marriages nationwide], but we cannot stop its effect.

“If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane”.

During, or immediately following the final adjournment of, a Legislative Session, Legislators, Staff and lobbyists alike need to find some release from the pace and the tension of a Legislative Session and find some way to get away from Montgomery. They ar looking for a change in latitude to affect a change in attitude. The last verse of Buffett’s musing sums up the feelings of many:

I think about Paris when I’m high on red wine,

I wish I could jump on a plane.

And so many nights I just dream of the ocean.

God, I wish I was sailin’ again.

Oh, yesterdays are over my shoulder,

So I can’t look back for too long.

There’s just too much to see waiting in front of me,

And I know that I just can’t go wrong

As Jimmy Buffett would say:

It’s those changes in latitudes,

Changes in attitudes nothing remains quite the same.

With all of our running and all of our cunning,

If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.

We hope that you will all be able to enjoy a change in latitude so that you can enjoy a change in attitude. Have a great weekend.

The Alabama House will reconvene at 1:00pm on Tuesday, March 8, 2016
The Alabama Senate will reconvene at 2:00pm on Tuesday, March 8, 2016

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