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State Rep. Nordgren promotes effort to allow legislature to call itself into session; Says heavy-handed governors in other states demonstrates need

From May 2020 through February 2021, the Alabama Legislature was out of session. While that was not unlike any other year under normal circumstances, the state government was very active in its response to the COVID-19 situation.

Given that the legislative branch was not in Montgomery, much of what took place at the state level resulted from the executive branch under Gov. Kay Ivey. That made some feel uneasy about a shift in the balance of power in state government.

State Rep. Becky Nordgren (R-Gadsden) seeks to provide an opportunity for the legislature to have a role in these situations, which under the current Alabama Constitution would not be possible unless the governor calls a special session. Nordgren’s HB 21 would propose a constitutional amendment that would allow the legislature to call itself into session.

During an appearance on Mobile radio’s FM Talk 106.5 on Friday, the Etowah County Republican lawmaker explained what led her to make the proposal.

“I’ve been in the legislature going on 11 years now,” she said. “And never ever did it occur to me there was a need for the legislature to have to call itself into session. But during the pandemic, when the pandemic first started, you know, it was kind of a shock that rolled in slowly. Then boom — it just kind of hit like a ton of bricks, and the executive orders started coming. And the Governor was well within her legal right to be doing what she had been doing. And we very much respect and like our governor. We’ve worked well with her over the past years and have nothing but good things to say about her except for the uneasiness I felt and the constituents felt about, ‘Hey, we have three branches of government, and this is just unsettling that only one branch is involved in such a traumatic situation. It’s a situation where people have lost jobs. People have lost loved ones. And yet, there’s only one branch of our government involved with that tragedy.”

“And then when you started watching some of the governors in other states — some of the really heavy hands that one branch was putting on their citizens, locking them down a lot longer than we were, and by causing more chaos in their state, it got me worried, as well as some of the constituents I was conversing with on it, that you know our governor has term limits. And we don’t know who in the future who our governor will be and who might use a heavier hand with their authority in such a way that would be more oppressive or more of a boot on our neck. And for that, I felt like there needed to be a provision where you brought in the legislative branch of government in a situation like this because we are the voice of the people we serve. I believe if they feel better, regardless if the legislature calls itself into session, and acted just like, you know, the same executive orders that the governor put out, but it was done where everybody voice felt like it was being heard, I think it would not have been as unsettling as it was over the past year.”

Under Nordgren’s bill, a special session of the legislature by these means would be initiated by the Senate President Pro Tempore and the Speaker of the House through a joint proclamation. Once that occurs, it would require a two-thirds majority vote of each chamber to proceed.

“If it weren’t a serious topic or emergency, I don’t believe you would get the two-thirds vote that you need to have the special session,” she added.

Because Nordgren’s bill is a constitutional amendment, it would require a three-fifths supermajority from both chambers to go to a vote of the people, who would ultimately decide if the legislature should have this ability.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.