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Sen. Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, with Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom Jr. in the Senate chamber Tuesday.
AP photo by Rob Carr
Sen. Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, with Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom Jr. in the Senate chamber Tuesday.

Folsom helps break
stall in Senate

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Democratic Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom Jr. ignored the shouts of Republican senators Tuesday and helped break through GOP stalling tactics that had threatened passage of the state budgets.

With Folsom's help, the Senate's Democratic majority quickly killed two bills that the minority coalition of senators had been holding up and then took the procedural steps needed to put the state budgets and public employees' pay raises in line for passage in the closing days of the legislative session.

"This is an illegal vote. You cannot violate the law," Sen. Larry Dixon, R-Montgomery, shouted at Folsom.

Constitutional duty

Folsom said he was making sure the Legislature abided by its constitutional duty to pass the state budgets each year. "It is the paramount duty of the body to pass budgets. The people of Alabama are watching," he said.

Active and retired education employees who filled the Senate gallery gave Folsom a round of applause.

But Sen. Charles Bishop, R-Jasper, told Folsom, "Either you are one of the smartest lieutenant governors we've ever had or one of the dumbest. I'm not sure which one at this point in time."

Protesting rules

Since shortly after the legislative session began March 6, the Senate's minority of 12 Republican senators and five dissident Democrats has been delaying action to protest Senate operating rules and committee appointments they say reduce the minority's influence and to protest their lack of input in shaping the state budgets. The majority of 18 Democrats said the minority and Republican Gov. Bob Riley were upset they lost the Senate's organizational battle by one vote.

In recent weeks, the minority's stalling tactics had involved keeping the Senate from voting on two routine bills to extend the life of two state regulatory boards: the Alabama Board of Examiners of Landscape Architects and the State Board of Licensure for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors.

When the Senate convened Tuesday, the Senate's 18-member Democratic majority voted 18-17 to kill both bills that had been used for stalling. The Senate did that without taking a preliminary procedural vote to bring up the bills for a final vote.

The 18-17 votes came as several Republicans shouted for points of order, claiming Folsom was violating state law. Folsom ignored their shouts in taking votes to kill the two bills.

Then working with the Senate's Democratic leadership, Folsom took the procedural steps necessary for the Senate to receive the state General Fund budget and education budget that were previously passed by the House. The Senate also received House-passed legislation to provide a 7 percent raise to education employees and 3.5 percent raise to state workers beginning Oct. 1.

Those bills now go to Senate committees with only four meeting days remaining in the legislative session. The chairmen of the Senate's budget committees said they plan to get the bills approved this week.

"Sounds like they're making it up as they go along," Riley said. "I wish they'd use that same maneuver to bring up the PAC-to-PAC transfer ban, four-year appraisals and other reforms they say they support but have ignored."

The Senate's longest-serving member, Bobby Denton, D-Muscle Shoals, praised the lieutenant governor for ending "something that has been a cancer on this institution since it began."

Republican senators heaped criticism on Folsom, saying his actions were a copy of what he did at the start of the session when he ignored shouts by GOP senators for a roll call vote on a 61 percent legislative pay raise. The senators also said they are considering suing over his actions.

"It's a very serious matter and I hope the courts will take it up quickly," Sen. Bradley Byrne, R-Fairhope, said.

"Anyone who wants to contest it can contest it," Folsom said, but he predicted the courts wouldn't reverse his actions.

Even though the Senate voted to kill the legislation continuing two state regulatory boards, Folsom predicted the Senate will resurrect the legislation later and pass it so the boards won't go out of business.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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