Governor encourages GOP to stand firm
By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer
MONTGOMERY — Prospects for a failed legislative session grew Thursday when negotiations about ending a Republican slowdown in the Senate broke off and Gov. Bob Riley encouraged GOP senators to stand their ground, even it kills the state budgets and forces him to call a special session.
"We'll get back into a special session. We'll have this debate there," Riley said at a news conference with members of the Senate minority.
The Democratic majority immediately pointed fingers at Republicans.
"They have almost single-handedly killed this session," Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russell-ville, said.
The Senate's minority of 12 Republicans and five Democrats who usually vote with the GOP have been slowing down action in the Senate since shortly after the session started March 6. They have complained about new Senate operating rules reducing their influence, a shortage of Republicans on key Senate committees, and a lack of input in writing the state budgets.
The Senate's 18-member Democratic majority is three votes short of the number necessary to cut off stalling tactics and force votes — even on routine bills.
With only five meeting days remaining in the session, small groups of senators negotiated behind closed doors for several hours Thursday to try to end the stalemate, but when the talks broke down, the Senate adjourned until Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the House bogged down over a school construction bond issue, with Riley complaining that Democrats were trying to take control of it.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Zeb Little, D-Cullman, said the minority is still mad about losing the Senate's organizational battle by one vote and is willing to force taxpayers to spend money on a special session when it's not necessary.
The major sticking point in the Senate negotiations is the state budgets.
Republican senators said the minority won't agree to pass the budgets without seeing details of what Democratic Senate leaders plan to propose and then having a voice in shaping the budgets.
"There is no way I'll make an agreement to vote for budgets without seeing them," Sen. Charles Bishop, R-Jasper, said.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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