Holley legislative consolidation bill loses in cloture vote

After four days of consideration, the Senate on Tuesday voted to carry over a bill that would have consolidated legislative support operations under the control of a handful of House and Senate members.

Sen. Jimmy Holley, R-Elba, introduced SB122 to consolidate Senate and House operations. After four legislative days and his last-minute attempt to mollify opponents, senators overwhelmingly voted not to end a filibuster led by Democrats and ultimately supported by majority Republicans.

The Senate voted 2 to 27 against cutting off debate. On a voice vote, the Senate then agreed with Holley to carry his bill over. While technically not dead, the bill faces a significant uphill battle if it is to be revived.

Holley’s bill would have created two legislative committees that would ride herd over House and Senate support agencies such as the Legislative Fiscal Office and Legislative Reference Service. Holley had agreed to expand the number of House and Senate members on the oversight committee by two from each house, to 16 total members. That didn’t change minds.

“I want a non-partisan body,” Sen. Linda Coleman, D-Birmingham, said shortly before the cloture vote.

The Senate’s sixth legislative working day began at 10 a.m. and almost immediately senators recessed until 1 p.m. to give Holley time to iron out kinks in the bill. After the Senate’s return, Holley agreed to withdraw his substitute and amend SB122 in key areas.

Holley’s bill seemed doomed when its sole Democrat co-sponsor, Sen. Quinton Ross of Montgomery, started a filibuster and pushed his own substitute.

“I read some things and it gave me pause,” Ross said. “Also concerning me was the power concentrated in six members of the House and Senate.”

Holley’s amendments would have added two members from the House and Senate to create a 16-member oversight committee. “We must have more transparency and more accountability in the House and Senate,” Holley said in defense of his bill.

Ross’s substitute would have created an 18-member Joint Legislative Oversight Committee.

Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, spelled Ross at the microphone. He said he wanted an independent Department of Examiners of Public Accounts and an independent Legislative Fiscal Office. “If something is working well we don‘t need to change it,” Sanders said of the LFO.

“I think every member of the Senate will lose some control,” Sanders said of the small size of the proposed oversight committee.

– Dana Beyerle