MONTGOMERY, Ala. – State lawmakers have been talking for weeks about how the relative harmony and productivity of this year’s session would allow them to take care of business and adjourn five days early, saving taxpayers money and making most folks happy.
Hold your horses on that.
On Wednesday, simmering bitterness between the House and Senate over passing each body’s respective legislation finally boiled over and resulted in both chambers adjourning for the day with key legislation still on the floor.
Like two chess players clocking out after each move, the House and Senate spent much of the day taking turns recessing for short intervals to wait for the other body to catch up on its work.
Senators felt like the House was taking too long to act on Senate legislation. House Members thought their pace was just fine, thank you very much, and took umbrage with Senators publicly criticizing the House on the Senate floor.
A cheap shot from Sen. Paul Bussman of Cullman was clearly a bridge too far for House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, who confronted Bussman off the Senate floor. The two shared a tense exchange, and not long after the Senate voted to adjourn for the day without finishing its primary objective: giving final passage to the Education Trust Fund Budget. The House soon followed suit, showing clear frustration with comments and criticism from the upper chamber.
Rep. Craig Ford came to the well of the House to thank McCutcheon for confronting Bussman.
“Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you for going upstairs and doing what you did. You stood up for the 104 rest of us and we appreciate it.”
McCutcheon downplayed the drama between chambers Wednesday. However, asked what the disharmony was all about, he said “Ask the Senate. They are the ones doing the complaining.”
Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh also downplayed the tension, telling reporters cooler heads would prevail Thursday morning.
“I think everybody — with clearer heads, at nine in the morning, making reasonable decisions— we’ll still end up with a good session,” Marsh told AP.
Both the House and Senate will reconvene at 9:00 a.m. Thursday, though a handful of members might have already left town.
On the agenda in the Senate: giving final passage to the Education Trust Fund. There’s no opposition, only those who want to delay passage as a way to prompt the House into passing certain bills, namely a DUI Interlock bill and the racial profiling bill.
On the agenda in the House: HB317, the economic developer bill. There seems to be enough support to give it final passage, but things could change overnight. Speaker McCutcheon said it was unlikely the House would be taking up the racial profiling bill because the House would be focused solely on bills coming from the Senate, but House sponsor Rep. Merika Coleman said she would be working Rules Committee members to try to get the bill another chance on the floor.