Orr, others don't know source of recorded calls
By M.J. Ellington
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MONTGOMERY — State Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, was the target this week of recorded phone messages sent to residents of his district.
The calls, which also targeted other conservative senators, mentioned promises the lawmakers made while campaigning and the current stalemate between Republicans and Democrats, which has shut down the Senate for much of this session.
"Ask your senator to go to work and pass the budgets," the messages instructed. In some districts, the callers did just that.
Orr said, however, that most of the calls he has received came from people who support his stands.
There was no indication of who paid for the calls, but the office of Sen. Charles Bishop, R-Jasper, said calls also went to his district.
Those messages said voters should request that Bishop vote to pass the budgets and vote against gambling legislation.
Sen. Tom Butler, D-Madison, said he didn't know of any calls went to his district.
Butler is a leader of a minority coalition which includes all of the Senate's Republican members and five Democrats.
Orr and Bishop have been vocal supporters of the coalition's effort to change the Senate's operating rules to give the minority more voice in committee decisions, more input into budget decisions and more time to debate bills, particularly budget bills.
The coalition has stalled most action in the Senate this session by refusing to pass two remaining sunset bills that each year decide the fate of certain state boards and commissions.
Although the sunset provisions are unrelated to the subjects about which the senators disagree, the minority has used them as bargaining chips to try to get their desired rules changes.
State law requires that the Senate pass the sunset measures before bringing up any other bills unless the majority of Senators in both parties agree to bypass them.
The minority group does not have the votes to get what it wants, but it does have the votes to stop Democrats from passing the sunset bills.
Orr said he considered making his own recorded phone message to respond to the charge that he is not working for people of his district, but he decided against it. "I do not want to harass people in the district," Orr said.
The senator said he does not know who paid for the calls to homes in his district, but he said he believes they are misleading.
He said it "galled" him to hear that that the messages instructed his constituents to tell him to get to work.
Orr said when he slept in the Senate on a hard bench during a recent all-night session, he did so to be ready in case Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom called the Senate out of recess unexpectedly.
He said he has been in the Senate every day of the session.
Contrary to what the recorded message said, Orr said, he supports the proposed 7 percent teacher pay raise and 3.5 percent state employee pay raise.
Late Thursday afternoon, Gov. Bob Riley held a news conference at his Statehouse office, during which he said he had asked senators in the minority to hold their ground and refuse to pass the two remaining sunset bills, even if that results in no budgets this session.
Orr, Butler and Bishop joined other Senate Republicans who attended the meeting with Riley and members of the press.
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