Riley shows class under pressure
Steve Flowers, Guest columnist
Gov. Bob Riley deserves accolades for his leadership during Hurricane Ivan. When all of the property damage is finally assessed, it will more than likely be the most devastating hurricane to have ever ravaged Alabama. However, the minimal loss of life in Alabama can largely be attributed to Riley's yeoman efforts before, during, and after the storm. He displayed genuine concern, compassion, and decisiveness. The nation marveled at Alabama's preparedness and evacuation.
Ever since the end of the regular session of the Legislature in May, Gov. Riley has indicated that he would call for a special session to address his accountability and health care cost measures. He first hinted that he would immediately call the session when the regular session adjourned. He was told there was no support for his session, so he then postponed it until September or October. He appointed a task force to study how to remedy the skyrocketing cost of health insurance for teachers and state employees. They will now report late so his last position is that it will now be late November or maybe not at all.
He has polled the Legislature and found that he has very little support for his plan and that he would be embarrassed again. He had already been humiliated by the Legislature's refusal to address his programs in the regular session. He has decided that discretion is the better part of valor.
Gov. Riley is a good sport. He does not let defeat deter or affect him. He has exhibited a tremendous amount of class and dignity when dealt a setback or insult in his tenure as governor.
He handled the devastating rejection of his tax package by voters with as much aplomb as I have ever seen by an Alabama political figure. He quickly got up off the mat and turned a gracious cheek to the situation. It was statesmanlike.
Likewise, he took in stride the Legislature's insulting rebuke of his proposal to recess the regular session in February and go into a special session on accountability. He never seemed insulted.
He has wrestled with challenging the Legislature on this issue. but it is obvious that Dr. Hubbert and his teachers have more clout than he does in the House and Senate. It is frustrating to Riley. He has been a self made, successful businessman for most of his life. When he sees a problem he wants to hit it head-on.
The democratic dominated Legislature has repeatedly shown the Republican governor they care very little about his issues or what he wants to accomplish. They basically ignored him in the regular session. They ignored his budget and proposed their own; they ignored his laundry list of accountability bills; they ignored him when he asked them to adjourn and address his programs in an interim special session. They even refused to listen to him address their regular session at midpoint for that purpose. They have gone so far as to override his veto on his attempt to veto harmless and meaningless resolutions they pass. In my years of watching state government, I have never seen a governor treated with such disrespect or rudeness.
He has been embarrassingly exiled to a place of irrelevance in the Legislative halls. Therefore, it would probably be a waste of $400,000 of tax dollars to have a special session.
Regardless of his legislative stalemate, Riley has been given an historic opportunity to appoint the two leading legal positions in Alabama. With the removal of Chief Justice, Roy Moore, from the bench and the Presidential appointment of Attorney General, Bill Pryor, to the Federal Appeals Court, he has been given a unique patronage bonanza.