(My apologies for the delay in posting this — and big thanks to Patricia for taking the time to post here. Of course, politics doesn’t take a break even when the Legislature does, so I hope she’ll keep us up-to-date in the off season. –Kathy)
In case you haven’t heard, the 2007 legislative session ended with a bang!
I was appalled to learn that Sen. Bishop (R) landed a punch to his session rival Sen. Lowell Barron (D). Embarrassingly, the Senate’s session ended as it started…with a fight. Upon leaving the Senate floor Senator Bishop commented that he would “do it again” if anyone made a slur/comment about his mother. He capped this off by noting he would not respect anyone who didn’t throw a punch if their mother was insulted.
I listened in disbelief to his rationale and continue to wonder what messages his actions send to our youth. Many House members were ashamed of the Senator’s actions as a legislator. Clearly we have little to be proud of from this session and the public, already disgusted with our inability to take care of the people’s business, always deserve better.
Often I am asked about my impression from my first session in the House. My response is simple: the process is frustrating and really meant to keep legislation from passing. Any change in Alabama politics is painfully slow.
But I was elected to represent the people of my District to the best of my ability regardless of these systemic problems. To this end I am proud of the legislation that I sponsored, especially the Alabama Minimum Wage Law, despite its eventual death in the House Commerce Committee.
Here are the Top Ten Lessons I Learned this first Session:
10. NEVER COMPROMISE YOUR BELIEFS – Many times during this session I found myself in situations that I felt conflicted on how to vote. The pulls and strains upon what I thought was best for the community was sometimes in direct opposition to the will of those in power. Although it wasn’t always a popular vote, I believe one must always do what is right and in the best interest of the community before all else. This philosophy was never more apparent than in my vote against the 62% legislative pay raise.
9. RESPOND TO YOUR CONSTITUENTS – Even when they disagree with you or may be entirely contentious, constituents who have expressed their opinion have taken time to share their concerns and their opinions and should be valued whether through return calls, emails or letters.
8. PICK YOUR BATTLES – I never found myself at a loss for things to get angry and disgusted about; what was critical was recognizing early on that you cannot win them all.
7. THINGS ARE NEVER AS THEY SEEM – Often what one thinks is a non-controversial piece of legislation actually turns out to be the biggest fight of the session. It is imperative to always listen to each motion and each action on the floor, as House Rules are often used as weapons.
6. NEVER MAKE THE SPEAKER OR THE RULES COMMITTEE CHAIR MAD AT YOU – These two people always control the flow of legislation; if they are upset with you over something, kiss your bill goodbye.
5. NEVER SPONSOR MORE BILLS THAN YOU CAN HANDLE – It takes time to educate members about your bill and gain critical support.
4. PATIENCE – Regardless of the situation…never commit to a vote until you really know all of the facts and have exhausted your quest for deeper understanding for the bill’s consequences.
3. LISTEN and OBSERVE – Always listen to the opposition and try to minimize their concerns.
2. DO YOUR HOMEWORK – Know your legislation inside and out; it is always your responsibility to research and understand the impact of a bill–not a lobbyist’s.
1. MAKE FRIENDS- True in the community, true in the Legislature: the more people who like you, the more likely they are to help you.
I want to close this blog entry with my thanks to Kathy at Birmingham Blues for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts, frustrations and joy in serving House District 54 this past year. (You’re welcome! -K)