Ugly start for 2004 session

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 14, 2004

The Alabama Legislature kicked off its annual session this past week, and my greatest concerns have already come to past.

On Wednesday of last week, we had a major committee meeting to discuss the Governor’s proposals on governmental reform and accountability.

We had four committee votes, three of which ended in an eight to eight tie and a fourth which was nine to seven.

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There is considerable significance in what I am sharing with you.

These votes strongly suggest that this will be an ugly session where Senators are divided almost down the middle.

One of my on-going concerns about the legislative process these days is how many of my colleagues are partisan.

If a Republican makes a proposal, the Democrats vote against it, and if a Democrat makes a proposal, the Republicans vote against it.

There is very little consideration of the merits of the issue.

I have contended for years that this attitude is wrong.

I know I will get disagreement from some of you who read my column, but I feel that when the election is over both Democrats and Republicans should leave their party affiliations &uot;at the door&uot; and act on all legislative bills based on the respective merit or demerit of the legislation.

There should be no partisanship when it comes to carrying out the people’s legislative business in Montgomery.

If I sound a bit irritated, it is because I am.

There are several members of the Alabama Senate who are seeking to do a &uot;one upmanship&uot; on Governor Riley and there are those who are voting against his plan just because he is not of the same party as they are.

I will share with you exactly what I told Governor Riley himself.

He is proposing several things which I cannot support, because I do not feel they are fair nor in the best interests of the people of Alabama.

However, I will never vote against any of his proposals because I am a Democrat and he is a Republican.

On the other hand, there are a number of pieces of legislation in his package which make a lot of sense, and I am going to be promoting those bills when they come up in the Senate for a vote.

The same concerns can be expressed about nominations made by the Governor to the various boards of trustees around the state and the new appointees to the state Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Some members of the Senate are actively working against his nominations just because they want to try to embarrass the Governor.

I likewise do not think this is right.

Public hearings should be held on all nominations and those who have been selected should be called to testify about their backgrounds, interests, and commitment to the task at hand.

If they prove worthy, then they should be approved.

If there is a problem which arises with any given candidate, then they should be disapproved.

It should not matter what party affiliation they hold nor who nominated them.

It should all be done on merit.

Suffice it to say, we have a long legislative session ahead of us.

There is going to be significant debate over the budgets and how they are funded.

I just hope all of us in the Senate can do this in a dignified way and uphold the great traditions of this wonderful institution, the Alabama Senate.

Senator Wendell Mitchell can

be reached at 334-242-7883, or by writing

to P.O. Box 225, Luverne, AL 36049.