Another ‘no harm-no foul’ session

As the old saying goes, it is now safe for women and children to return to the streets of Montgomery.

The Legislature has gone home.

The 2002 Regular Session followed the script of countless election-year sessions of the past.

The question asked by lawmakers on most of the pending bills was the same: Will this help or hurt me in my campaign for re-election?

For sure, payraises for teachers and state employees as well as those who are retired were approved.

All of them got 3 percent raises even though most of the lawmakers who voted for the hikes admitted they weren’t sure where the money would come from.

Unless there is a dramatic turnaround in the economy, there will either have to be an increase in taxes or a cutback in other services to fund these raises in the future.

The highlight of the session … if it can be called that … was Gov. Don Siegelman’s belated effort to seek a convention to re-write Alabama’s Constitution.

That he waited until the fourth year of his term in office … an election year at that … to seek approval of such a controversial measure raised some doubts about his sincerity.

No matter, the campaign for Constitutional reform didn’t get off the ground.

In fact, the legislation was declared the winner of the tongue-in-cheek &uot;Shroud Award&uot; for being the most hopeless piece of legislation introduced during the session.

There was one striking difference between the 2002 sessions and many that preceded it: The lawmakers didn’t wait until the final minutes to pass the two budgets for education and the General Fund.

Historically these appropriation bills are passed in the final minutes of the session.

Not so this year.

Both budgets were passed well before adjournment.

On the final day of the session, the House gave final approval to a controversial bill which would require clinics to explain alternatives to women who are planning to have an abortion.

Opponents said the legislation was a back-door attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade; proponents insisted it would make abortions safer.

While conservatives prevailed on that issue they were not successful in another effort &045; a bill that would have allowed the display of the Ten Commandments in public schools died on the final day.

A bottom line assessment of the session: Other than the passage of the fiscally irresponsible budgets, it was, as they say in basketball, a &uot;no-harm-no-foul&uot; session.

The &uot;Hunting Season&uot; is now open &045; the vote-hunting season. The primary elections are now only about six weeks away.

It got no more than scant notice in the media, but four years ago, more Alabamians voted in the Republican Gubernatorial primary than in the Democratic Gubernatorial primary.

Had anyone predicted two decades ago that this would happen, they would have been hauled off in a strait jacket.

It is now a safe prediction that this will happen again in June.

The contest on the Democratic side between Gov. Siegelman and his one face-card challenger, Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Bishop, is not likely to create much voter interest.

Far more entertaining will be the three-man race for the GOP nomination between Greenville businessman Tim James, Congressman Bob Riley of Ashland and Lt. Gov. Steve Windom of Mobile.

In 1998, the vote in the GOP primary exceeded the Democratic turnout by less than 10,000 votes.

It could exceed it by tens of thousands of votes this year.

I don’t know when it will be aired, but ESPN is putting together a documentary on three generations of the Flowers family of Alabama.

Featured will be Richmond Flowers Sr., now in his mid-80s and living in Dothan; his son, Richmond Jr., an All American football player at Tennessee and later a star with the Dallas Cowboys; and the younger Flowers’ son, Will, who is now a wide receiver for Ole Miss … catching passes thrown by another second-generation star, Eli Manning (the son of Archie)