Momma Told Me (Not to Come)

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The Alabama Legislature adjourned its 2017 Regular Session on Friday, May 18, 2017 after one of the strangest Sessions that can be remembered by most who deal with the Alabama Legislature on a regular basis. In hindsight the 2017 Regular Session was a fitting conclusion to a year that no one, in their wildest dreams, could have ever predicted. The words, more specifically the words to the chorus, to the classic song in the title to this report recorded by Three Dog Night in the 1970’s perhaps sums up the feeling surrounding the past year:

Momma Told Me (Not to Come)
Want some whiskey in your water?

Sugar in your tea?

What’s all these crazy questions they’re askin’ me?

This is the craziest party that could ever be

Don’t turn on the lights ’cause I don’t want to see

Mama told me not to come

Mama told me not to come

“That ain’t the way to have fun, no”

Open up the window, let some air into this room

I think I’m almost chokin’ from the smell of stale perfume

And that cigarette you’re smokin’ ’bout scare me half to death

Open up the window, sucker, let me catch my breath

Mama told me not to come

Mama told me not to come

“That ain’t the way to have fun, son”

“That ain’t the way to have fun, son”

The radio is blastin’, someone’s knockin’ at the door

I’m lookin’ at my girlfriend – she’s passed out on the floor

I seen so many things I ain’t never seen before

Don’t know what it is – I don’t want to see no more

Mama told me not to come

Mama told me not to come

She said, “That ain’t the way to have fun, son”

“That ain’t the way to have fun, no”

“That ain’t the way to have fun, no”

“That ain’t the way to have fun, son”

“That ain’t the way to have fun, no”

“That ain’t the way to have fun, son”

“That ain’t the way to have fun, no”

“That ain’t the way to have fun, son”

“That ain’t the way to have fun, no”

“That ain’t the way to have fun, son”

Let’s recount some of the events of the past 12 months beginning on June 1, 2016:

  • June 2016 – Then Speaker of the Alabama House of Representative, Mike Hubbard, is convicted on 12 of 23 felony indictments resulting in his being removed from office;
  • June 2016 – The Alabama House Judiciary Committee holds its first Committee Meeting to begin the investigation into the possible impeachment of Governor Robert Bentley;
  • August 2016 – Governor Bentley called the Legislature into Special Session to provide funding for Medicaid. This was accomplished by monetizing the BP Settlement, providing funding for Medicaid in the 2016/2017 and 2017/2018 Fiscal Years to supplement funding from the General Fund. While this helped reduce the pain in those two Fiscal Years it sets up potential problems down the road;
  • September 2016 – Then Chief Justice Roy Moore is suspended for the balance of his term as Chief Justice (this was his second removal from the office of Chief Justice) for disregarding the Opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States regarding same-sex marriage;
  • November 2016 – Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange asks the House Judiciary Committee to suspend its investigation and the possible impeachment process of Governor Robert Bentley;
  • November 2016 – Donald Trump is elected President of the United States and nominates Senator Jeff Sessions to become the United States Attorney General;
  • December 2016 – The Alabama Department of Corrections found itself in Federal Court defending the Department’s actions with respect to mental health care. Though the trial ended in February 2017 Judge Thompson has yet to issue his decision and Order in the case. It is expected that his Order will ultimately require Governor Kay Ivey to call a Special Session to deal with funding for Corrections. In order to accomplish the anticipated required funding increases the Legislature will have to do one of three things:
    • Raid the approximate $90 million reserve that is in the General Fund Budget for FY 2017/2018;
    • Reopen the General Fund Budget and reallocate appropriations made to other General Fund Agencies thereby reducing the money available for use by the rest of state government; or
    • Raise taxes. The prospect of having to raise taxes to take care of inmates is frightening enough. It becomes even more unlikely to happen in the run-up to the Legislative Elections in 2018;
  • January 2017 – Budget Hearings for the upcoming Legislative Session were held. General Fund Agencies presented wish lists for funding for the coming Fiscal Year. At the end of the day most every Agency was level funded.
  • February 2017 – Alabama Legislature convenes for 2017 Regular Session. A total of 1,030 Bills were introduced in both the House and Senate;
  • February 2017 – Jeff Sessions is confirmed to become the United States Attorney General, resigns from the US Senate, is sworn in as US Attorney General and Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange is appointed to fill the open Senate seat. During the announcement of his appointment Strange denies that was ever an investigation of Governor Bentley by his office;
  • February 2017 – Governor Bentley appoints Steve Marshall to become the new Attorney General. Less than one week after his appointment Marshall appoints Ellen Brooks (retired Montgomery County DA) as a Special Attorney General to oversee the Bentley investigation that Strange indicated did not exist;
  • April 2017 – Governor Bentley pleads guilty to two misdemeanors and resigns as Governor. Lt. Governor Kay Ivey is sworn in as Governor;
  • April 2017 – Suspended Chief Justice Roy Moore resigns and announces his candidacy for the open US Senate seat. Governor Ivey appoints Senior Associate Justice and Acting Chief Justice Lynn Stuart as the new Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court;
  • May 2017 – The Alabama Legislature adjourns the 2017 Regular Session Sine Die completing what many believe was a very unproductive Session. Consider the following statistics:
    • Total House Bills introduced                                                           608
    • Total House Bills enacted                                                                 214                          35.2%
    • General Bills enacted/% of total enacted                                       112                           52.3%
    • General Bills enacted/% of total introduced                                 112                           18.4%
    • Local Bills enacted/% of total enacted                                             91                           42.5%
    • Sunset Bills enacted/% of total enacted                                           21                             9.8%
    • Total Senate Bills introduced                                                          422
    • Total Senate Bills enacted                                                                   85                           20.1%
    • General Bills enacted/% of total enacted                                         57                            67.1%
    • General Bills enacted/% of total introduced                                   57                            13.5%
    • Local Bills enacted/% of total enacted                                             28                            32.9%
    • Combined Bills Introduced                                                            1030
    • Total Bills enacted                                                                              299                           29.0%
    • General Bills enacted/% of total enacted                                       169                           56.5%
    • General Bills enacted/% of total introduced                                 169                            16.4%
    • Local Bills enacted/% of total enacted                                            119                           39.8%
    • Local & Sunset Bills enacted/% of total enacted                          140                           43.5%

As evidenced by the numbers above it becomes very clear that very little was accomplished in this Legislative Session. Hundreds of Bills were never heard in Committee or brought up for consideration on the floor of the House or Senate. Quite a few Members of the Legislature have been heard grumbling about the process and inability to have their legislation considered. With elections coming next year and a high number of current Members of the Legislature either running for higher office or deciding not to return Leadership elections in both the House and Senate could get very interesting. One example of the frustration with Leadership was seen in the House Republican caucus during this past Session when the House Majority Leader, Micky Hammon was ousted and replaced by a Freshman.

Consider for a minute the fact that none of the following list of office holders have been elected to their current position and that this has all happened in the past 12 months:

  • Governor Kay Ivey
  • US Senator Luther Strange
  • Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Lynn Stuart
  • Alabama Associate Supreme Court Justice Will Sellers – appointed to fill Lynn Stuart’s seat when she became Chief Justice
  • Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall.

To quote from the song that is the title of this Report

I seen so many things I ain’t never seen before

Don’t know what it is – I don’t want to see no more

Mama told me not to come

Mama told me not to come

She said, “That ain’t the way to have fun, son” “That ain’t the way to have fun, no”

The Alabama House will Convene the 2018 Regular Session at Noon on Tuesday,
January 9, 2018
The Alabama Senate will Convene the 2018 Regular Session at Noon Tuesday, January 9, 2018

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