Lawmakers Stretch Session Into Thursday

Mar 29, 2018

Alabama lawmakers are stretching out this year's legislative session as tensions and disagreements on Wednesday derailed what they hoped would be their final meeting day.

Legislators abandoned a plan to conclude the session Wednesday as a number of measures had not reached final passage by late evening. They are returning to the State House Thursday morning.

"I think everybody — with clearer heads, at nine in the morning, making reasonable decisions— we'll still end up with a good session," said Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh.

The meeting day was peppered with sniping between the House and Senate over the pace of votes. The chambers each took multiple recesses as they waited to see if the other chamber was making progress on priority pieces of legislation.

"I've run out of patience with the people on the fifth floor and their lack of progress on lots of bills," Republican Sen. Arthur Orr, the education budget chairman, said of the House of Representatives.

African-American lawmakers are continuing to push for passage of a racial profiling bill that would require law enforcement officers to record the reason for traffic stops and the race of stopped motorists. The Alabama Senate had approved the bill without a dissenting vote, but it hit roadblocks in the Alabama House.

The House adjourned without debating the bill Wednesday. Rep. Merika Coleman, a Democrat from Pleasant Grove, says she and other supporters will push to get the bill considered Thursday. However, House Speaker Mac McCutcheon has indicated the bill might not get a vote Thursday. He says lawmakers hadn't adopted a debate agenda and will be prioritizing bills already in line for a vote.

A proposal to exempt economic developers from rules governing lobbyists is another contentious issue that could be decided Thursday. A divided Alabama Senate approved the bill on a 15-14 vote after a prickly debate over whether it was a necessity for economic development or creates a wide new loophole in state ethics law.

The House of Representatives will resume debate Thursday over whether to go along with Senate changes to the bill.

Rep. Ken Johnson, the bill's sponsor, says requiring the people who help companies decide where to locate to "jump through hoops" to work in Alabama could hurt the state's job recruitment efforts.

"It stinks," state Sen. Bobby Singleton, a Democrat from Greensboro, says, in reference to the loophole he thinks the bill creates in Alabama's ethics law.