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Legislative wraps another bad session

By Staff
Bob Ingram, Alabama Scene
MONTGOMERY–I have watched the Alabama Legislature for so long that what they do or don't do rarely surprises me.
Hence the disaster which was the 2005 Regular Session didn't cause me to raise one eyebrow, much less two.
They passed an education budget dictated by Dr. Paul Hubbert and the AEA union which almost surely will result in proration next year and they failed to pass a General Fund budget which provides revenue for all other departments of state government other than roads and bridges.
Disgraceful, yes, but what else is new? And I must add even more disgraceful is that come 2006 most of the members of the current legislature will be re-elected.
I have said it before: In our form of government you get what you deserve.
As to the failure of the Legislature to pass a General Fund budget, I had to chuckle when I heard a TV news reporter say that this development "may" require a special session. Let me put it this way. If the Legislature doesn't pass a General Fund budget most of state government will shut down on Oct. 1.
Of course there will be a special session (in fact, it may have been called by the time you read this column). Gov. Riley has no choice.
Speaking of Gov. Riley, and my thinking may be politically skewed, but I have an idea his political stock…which is to say his chances for a second term…may have been given a boost by what happened during the legislative session.
He made it abundantly clear that while the aforementioned Dr. Hubbert can turn a majority of the legislators into a bunch of tail-wagging puppies, Riley can't be had.
His veto of the education appropriation bill was smart politics even though he knew the Legislature would override his veto.
But going toe-to-toe with Hubbert…even though he lost…made him a lot of points with many Republicans who consider Hubbert Public Enemy No. 1.
In that same vein, my choice as the best quote of the session came from State Sen. Larry Dixon, R-Montgomery. Dr. Hubbert returned to his familiar place in the balcony of the Senate late in the session after recovering from open heart surgery.
When he was spotted in the balcony a number of senators rushed up stairs to welcome him back. If he had been wearing a ring, they surely would have kissed it.
Sen. Dixon…no fan of Hubbert…couldn't resist a comment: "Does anyone else want to go up in the balcony and kiss a…?"
They announced plans to read the entire document as a sort of not-so-silent protest to the much-amended 104-year-old document.
The students began reading at 6 a.m. and at 6 p.m. they only completed a third of the Constitution. There are no plans to do any more reading.
Apparently it is the Tide's turn for a controversy. Alabama has what is called a "self-perpetuating" board. The members pick those who will serve with them, subject of course to confirmation by the Senate.
Some months ago the UA Trustees submitted several nominations to the Senate for confirmation, but in the final days of the regular session two of them were turned down by the Senate Confirmation Committee.
It was no surprise that Marietta Urquhart of Mobile was rejected because that seat is coveted by Riley Boykin Smith, a man with powerful ties to the University and to the rich and famous. What was surprising was that long-time trustee and a former chairman of the board Sid McDonald of Union Grove was also rejected by the committee.
Whether the action taken late on the final day of the session is valid remains to be seen.
The vote by the committee was not reported in the Journal of the Senate, and University officials say that is reason to believe the action carries no legal weight.