Legislative pay has been a hot issue over the last couple of weeks. It was actually the topic of our very first “One Thing to Watch” video back on April 1. Rep. Mike Ball’s bill to repeal the pay raise the Democrats passed themselves in 2007 flew through the House of Representatives on a vote of 97-2 (with one abstention).
Rep. Daniel Boman was so conflicted over the pay raise repeal vote that he decided to abstain. #ToughVote
— Yellow Hammer (@YHPolitics) April 5, 2012
This week, the legislative pay debate moved over to the Senate. But before we lay out the the train wreck that ensued, let’s flashback to last quadrennium when Democrats controlled the legislature.
In 2007, In some dark crevice of the Alabama State House, Democrat legislators hatched a plan to give themselves a 62-percent pay raise. With the next election still several years away, they figured that while the voters may be upset initially, they would have plenty of time to forget about this inexplicable violation of the public trust. They were wrong.
Of course, all of this is common knowledge that has been discussed ad nauseum. But one detail that routinely gets left out of the story is that the architect of the 2007 pay raise survived the Republican title wave in 2010. Democrat Senator Roger Bedford remained in his seat and became Senate Minority Leader after the GOP takeover.
Now flash forward to this week in the Alabama Senate. Not only has the House passed a bill that repeals the 2007 pay raise, they’ve gone a step further and passed enabling legislation that will place a constitutional amendment on the ballot which will provide voters with control over legislative pay. If this constitutional amendment is enacted, legislators would never again have the ability to give themselves a pay raise.
Senators Bryan Taylor and Phil Williams are spearheading the repeal efforts in the Senate. As the bill came to the floor for debate, Bedford jumped into action offering amendment after amendment in a death-by-a-million-paper-cuts strategy. He thought if he could muck the bill up enough, there was a chance it would be killed back down in the House. But the most devious aspect of Senator Bedford’s strategy was that, at first blush, his amendments seemed to “one-up” the GOP’s pay raise repeal. However, his amendments allowed the legislature to retain control over legislative pay rather then giving that power back to the voters — which is the true spirit of the GOP’s plan.
Bedford will undoubtedly attempt to score cheap political points by claiming the GOP blocked his repeal efforts. He’s turned demagoguery into an art form. But this effort was too much for even the usually-mild-mannered Senate President Pro Tem, Del Marsh. “I’ve withstood as much hypocrisy as I can for one day,” Marsh said. “What came out today was a monstrosity that we want to correct in conference committee.”
The bottom line is that Senator Bedford was trying to retain the ability to increase his pay again like he did in 2007. And he was able to temporarily derail the process toward true repeal. But Senator Marsh and his GOP colleagues won’t allow that the happen in the end.