Some things never change on Goat Hill

Published 4:00am Thursday, May 23, 2013

For a county represented by some of the Legislature’s most powerful and influential lawmakers, we sure seem to have a hard time getting anything done.
As the clock struck midnight last night at the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, every piece of legislation that had local significance and attention died on the vine. Lawmakers call it the logjam.
Both houses spend much of the session battling over the education and general fund budgets, along with a few big headline bills like the GOP’s “We Dare Defend Our Rights” package, the final few days of the regular session becomes a logjam, a game of musical chairs featuring hundreds of bills and just seven or eight seats.
One of the bills left without a seat at the midnight Monday deadline was the effort to strengthen the penalty for killing a person while driving a boat while intoxicated.
We in Elmore County have seen three different men convicted of killing a person on Lake Martin or Lake Jordan in recent years. And each one, convicted of homicide by vessel, was allowed to walk free after less than a year in the Elmore County Jail. We’ve seen one out on work release in the county, happily planting flowers instead of serving hard time.
Everyone seemed to be behind the bill, which only sought to treat a drunk-driving death on the waterways the same as one on the highway. Bills were sponsored in the Senate and the House with the presumption it would make passage a virtual guarantee this time.
And yet both bills, after passing overwhelmingly in the houses of origin, died on the vine amid the crush of other priorities.
If there’s one constant in Alabama politics, it’s the chaotic finish to the legislative sessions.
Lawmakers reached the next morning frequently speak of a kind of post-traumatic stress, waking up barely believing they don’t have to fight anymore for a while.
It’s hard to imagine what Alabama’s “framers” were thinking when they established the current system.
But it’s hard to imagine how they could come up with something less effective.

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