Country music icon George Strait recorded a song with the title Ace in the Hole. The lyrics of this song could very well be applied to those who work with the Alabama Legislature. Consider:

Ace in the Hole by George Strait

You’ve got to have an ace in the hole
A little secret that nobody knows
Life is a gamble, a game we all play
But you need to save something for a rainy day

You’ve got to learn to play your cards right
If you expect to win in life
Don’t put it all on the line for just one roll
You’ve got to have an ace in the hole

If you’re headed down a one-way street
And you’re not sure it’s the way you wanna go
In money or love or all the above
Have a little more than what you show

When life deals out a surprise
Have a few surprises of your own
No matter what you do, no matter where you go
You’ve got to have an ace in the hole

You’ve got to have an ace in the hole
A little secret that nobody knows
Life is a gamble, a game we all play
But you need to save something for a rainy day

You’ve got to learn to play your cards right
If you expect to win in life
Don’t put it all on the line for just one roll
You’ve got to have an ace in the hole

Don’t put it all on the line for just one roll
You’ve got to have an ace in the hole
No matter what you do, no matter where you go
You’ve got to have an ace in the hole

Given the circumstances surrounding access to the Alabama State House during this COVID pandemic communicating with Members of the Alabama Legislature has been difficult at best. To their credit, most members have made themselves available either by cell phone, text, email or in some instances in-person meetings. While these interactions are helpful, they are by no means a substitute for face-to-face interaction in the hallways and Member’s offices.

As George Strait put it – You’ve got to learn to play your cards right, if you expect to win in life – not being able to be in the State House makes the profession of lobbying much like a game of poker. Now we all know that “gambling” is not lawful in Alabama from a strict point of view. That said, dealing with the Members of the Alabama Legislature is a gamble every day.

Lobbying is nothing more than a specialized sales job. Who can sell their ideas better than the opposition? In a competitive sales environment, a salesperson never reveals all the information at his disposal when the sale is competitive. While it is incumbent on a lobbyist to impart facts to Members the old adage “Everything they know about this subject is what I have taught them, but they do not know everything I know”. That is the Ace in the Hole.

In the world of lobbying timing is everything. You have to play your cards close to the vest and know when to make that crucial move that will get your issue over the finish line. There are times that the lobbyist can manage that timetable but most of the time the timing is determined by the Leadership in the House and Senate.

Another songwriter, Kenney Rogers, sang that you have to know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em. If you are able to have that Ace in the Hole the decision of holding, or folding, becomes much clearer.

As the Legislature returns on March 30, the protocols of access to the State House will likely remain as they were before Spring Break. On Friday, April 9, Governor Ivey’s mask order will expire, and she has stated that it will not be extended. That makes for interesting speculation as to what the process will be starting the week of April 12. The Legislature could decide to continue to mandate the wearing of masks or they could remove that requirement. It is also possible that the Senate opens up and the House remains much more tightly restricted.

With just 14 Legislative Days remaining in the 2021 Regular Session having that Ace in the Hole will become even more important.

The Alabama House will reconvene at 1:00pm on Tuesday, March 30, 2021