Senate needs to produce

Published 6:00 pm Monday, February 2, 2009

The Alabama Legislature has a lot of ground to make up after the last two regular sessions were pretty much a disaster. Specifically, we’re talking about the Alabama Senate.

While the House of Representatives has been efficient at getting bills passed in the Legislature, the Senate has been disappointing.

In 2007, the Senate got tangled up in a debate of the rules.

The minority felt like the rules weren’t fair to them and that the majority would have had too much power. That caused many of the “sunset” bills, which are routine bills typically passed early in a session, not to get through the Senate until late.

The debate got so heated that Sen. Charles Bishop, R-Jasper, punched Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, on the last day of the session. The punch made national news and gave the state a black eye.

Last year, the problem was a gambling bill that came before the Senate. There was a filibuster that lasted several days in the Senate that put the state education budget debate on the back burner.

Unfortunately, that cost the Senate valuable time, time senators needed to resolve their debate over how much money should be allotted to K-12, higher education and other education entities.

The session ended without a budget being passed, and Gov. Bob Riley had to call a special session to get it passed.

This year, we have several bills coming before the Legislature that are important. Most notably, the state is facing major revenue shortfalls. There will likely be cuts across the board, but our legislators need to find a way to resolve their problems so we don’t get in a situation like we’ve had the last two years.

We don’t believe our elected officials should pass everything without a debate, but they must spend their time more efficiently. Certain bills don’t need as much debate as others. The Senate needs to get those bills pushed through and save the difficult ones until last.