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State Senate Democrats playing golf to heal rifts

MONTGOMERY (AP) — State Senate Democrats trying to heal a split in their ranks will see this weekend whether invitations to a golf resort helps.

The state Senate’s Democratic caucus has a retreat scheduled Sunday afternoon through Tuesday at the Ross Bridge golf resort in Birmingham. The caucus invited five Democratic senators who normally side with the Senate’s Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Zeb Little, D-Cullman, said Friday.

There are 18 Democrats in the majority caucus. The Senate’s minority caucus has 12 Republicans and five Democrats, which means neither side has the 21 votes necessary to stop filibusters and force bills through the Senate.

Who’s going

Sen. E.B. McClain, D-Midfield, was the only one of the five dissident senators who had committed to attend as of Friday evening, but McClain said he took the invitations to the five dissidents as a sign the majority wants to continue talks that members of the two sides began July 12 in Montgomery.

“As long as you can have some dialogue, that’s a good start,” he said.

Two other dissident Democrats, Sens. Jim Preuitt of Talladega and Larry Means of Attalla, said they were invited but already had other commitments.

Democratic majority members said the Birmingham retreat was planned before the talks with dissident senators began July 12, and reuniting Democrats is not the main purpose of the meeting. But a majority member, Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, was optimistic the retreat would be a step forward in the talks.

“I feel confident we’ll have a number of us come back together,” he said Friday.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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