Alabama state senators and a Senate official stepped in between two of their colleagues during a shouting match between the two men that occurred after a controversial ruling by Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday night.
With most Republicans out of the chamber and some out of the building eating dinner, Democratic Sen. Bobby Singleton moved to adjourn to end Senate business for the day, a delaying tactic Democrats have used to try to burn days of the legislative session. Ivey, a Republican, ruled Sen. Paul Bussman, R-Cullman, was recognized to speak at the time and not Singleton. Singleton argued that a motion to adjourn was always in order.
Democrats moved to override the presiding officer, Ivey, on a 7-5 vote, which would have allowed Democrats to adjourn.
But Ivey quickly recognized a motion by Bussman to recess for 15 minutes, which allowed other Republicans to come back to the chamber from dinner and from their offices.
As the Senate went into recess, Democratic Sen. Quinton Ross and Bussman began shouting at each other and walking toward each other over the situation and over who was right.
As Bussman walked away, Ross followed him and they continued to argue.
Republican Sen. Phil Williams stepped in between the men and Secretary of the Senate Pat Harris walked Bussman away from the situation.
Bussman, as he worked through routine bills that allow boards and agencies in the state to continue to operate, then refused to answer questions or take comments from colleagues for the rest of the night.“I wasn’t even a part of what made you like you are,” Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, said when Bussman refused to let him speak. Smitherman has regularly filibustered during the routine bills to delay.
Smitherman continued and told Bussman not letting him speak was like saying “all blacks are the same.” Smitherman, Singleton and Ross are black.
Senate Minority Leader Vivian Davis Figures, D-Mobile, accused Ivey of making partisan rulings and not ruling fairly. She said she told Ivey she hopes she does not run for another term.
“She ought to have enough courage to call it as it is,” Figures said.
Ivey has said she is following Senate rules.
Democrats and Republicans later reached an agreement to work through routine business before the Senate.
Earlier in the day, when the Senate went into session at 2 p.m. after taking a recess at 3 a.m., Democrats were outraged that Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh moved to pass a controversial bill using the roll from the last vote senators had made 11 hours earlier.
Very few senators were in the chamber with some of them in a committee meeting that went long.
The proposal, by Sen. Trip Pittman, would require applicants for public assistance benefits from the Alabama Department of Human Resources to take a drug test when there is reasonable suspicion they are using illegal substances. The bill, which now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration, was the last bill in an agenda that Republicans had worked on late Tuesday and early Wednesday before recessing after 3 a.m. Marsh quickly dispensed with it and passed the measure – with or without his colleagues there to help.
Democrats were angry that the Republicans quickly pushed through the controversial bill, which some Democrats adamantly oppose and believe is profiling poor recipients of public benefits, while they were in committee. They also said Pittman, R-Daphne, had vowed to work with them on the bill. But Pittman was not there either.
“I don’t know what they’re unhappy about – because they came in the chamber late,” Marsh said.
Marsh, R-Anniston, said he offered Democrats the opportunity to bring the bill up for reconsideration, but they declined.
“I don’t know what else I could have done,” he said. “The minority is not happy because they’re not in control.”
“It’s more important to them to say they’re being mistreated.”
– posted by Sebastian Kitchen