Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1606: My last legislative session is coming to an end

  My last legislative session is coming to an end. By the time you read this Sketches there will only be a few meeting days until we adjourn sine die (indefinitely). I am debating what to write about in this Sketches #1607. Should I write specifically about this session? Should I write about my service over the last 35 years? Should I just write? I don’t really know. I just know my last legislative session is coming to an end.

  I will have plenty of time to write about these 35 years of service in the Alabama Legislature. I have written 1607 "Sketches" without missing a single week. That’s too many "Sketches" to stop now. I intend to continue writing "Senate Sketches" even after I am no longer in the Alabama Senate. However, I will just call it something else. Instead of Senate Sketches, I may call it Sanders Sketches, or Sketches of Sanders, or something like that.

  This session has been different. A weight has been lifted. The moment I announced that I would not run again, a burden was lifted. I felt a sense of freedom although I still had more than two months left in the session and ten months left to serve on this last term.

  I did not expect to pass a lot of legislation this session. Legislation that impacts greatly is rarely passed. I introduced my usual array of legislation: taking sales tax off of food; limiting and/or repealing the death penalty; and ensuring that driver’s license offices are open in every county.

  I also introduced other bills: a bill to make it more difficult to take people’s property when sold for taxes; a bill to allow voter registration any time voter registration offices are open; a bill to prevent poor people from losing their drivers’ licenses just because they cannot pay fines for traffic violations; a bill to terminate parental rights of defendants convicted of rape that results in the birth of children; and a bill to ban assault weapons such as AR-15s.

  There are bills I introduced just because it is the right thing to do. I know that they don’t have a snowball’s chance in Hell to pass, but I keep introducing them. One bill that I had introduced for many years passed last year. However, I was not the sponsor of the legislation that finally passed. It was passed by Republican Senator Dick Brewbaker with my blessings. This bill was truly about life and death. The bill prohibited judges from overriding jury verdicts of life without parole and imposing sentences of death. Nearly a fourth of those on death row are there by virtue of judicial override.

  I introduced a bill to ban weapons of war such as AR-15 assault rifles. I know that the bill will not pass the Alabama Legislature. I know that the bill will not get out of committee. I know the bill will not even get a hearing before a committee. I know all this, but I still introduced the bill because it is the right thing to do. We must fight to protect our children from mass murderers and mass shootings such as those in Florida and Maryland and other states.

  Four of my bills were reported out of committee and came to the Senate floor. Two passed and went to the House. Both came out of the assigned House committee and one may be considered on the House floor. One bill involves tax sales and the other involves parental rights of convicted rapists when a child is born as a result of the rape.

  My bill to increase voter registration went down in flames on the Senate floor. My bill prohibiting the suspension of drivers’ licenses because people cannot pay fines for driving violations is on the Senate floor, but powerful forces are arrayed against it. I do not expect it to pass. Hundreds of thousands of citizens are without drivers’ licenses not because the violation required their license be suspended but because they could not pay the fines.

  I sponsored a number of local bills. Most local bills sail through the Alabama Legislature. But other legislators are challenging my local bills from Dallas, Monroe, and Wilcox counties. In Dallas and Monroe counties, the bills are being challenged by persons representing the county. The local bill for Dallas must start in the House because it increases taxes, and the Alabama 1901 Constitution requires such. It would resolve tax issues between the Dallas County School Board, the Selma School Board and the Dallas County Commission. I am trying to resolve these matters for three counties.

  Technically this session can last until April 23. However, legislative leaders have decided to end the session on March 29, nearly a month early. It’s an election year and some legislators want to get on the campaign trail. I have no such need as I am not running again. I just hope for the best for everyone. My last session is coming to an end, and I am thankful for every session, every challenge, and the coming absence of same in the future.

Epilogue – We never know what will happen when we plant seeds. We never know if the conditions will be ripe for the seeds to take root, spring up, and grow. We never know if someone else will cultivate the plants if we cannot. We never know if there will be a harvest at all. We never know if there will be a harvest and if the fruit will be used to meet true needs. We just never know what will happen when we plant seeds, but we must exercise our faith and plant seeds anyway.

  About the author: Hank Sanders represents Senate District 23 in the Alabama Legislature.

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