Steve Flowers: Road rage and deer hunting bills take center stage in legislature

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Over 20 years ago when I was a legislator the State Trooper assigned to my county asked if he could come visit with me. “Of course,” I said. When he came he had a somber look on his face. I thought maybe he had a serious personal problem or had lost a loved one.

He began, “This may not sound like a major highway problem, but one of the things that causes a good many accidents and incidents on our roads is people driving slow in the left lane and not moving over.” I never pursued legislation to this effect. However, he made me aware of the need to remedy this problem.

Well, finally, a legislator has taken up this legislation. Rep. Phillip Pettus, a Republican from Lauderdale County, who by the way retired as a captain in the Alabama State Troopers after a 25-year career, has passed legislation to remedy this problem. He calls his Bill, “The Anti-Road Rage Act.”

The Bill would prohibit drivers from staying in the left most lane on interstates for more than a mile and a half without passing another vehicle. Pettus explained, “People get ill when they come up behind people driving slow in the left lane and they are wanting to get by. Interstates were set up for the movement of traffic. This will make interstate traffic move better if the said road rage causes more wrecks than accident records would indicate, like when angry drivers cut in front of another vehicle and cause that vehicle to run off the road.” The House has passed the Bill on a 61-24 vote. It awaits action in the Senate.

It has been 20 years since I was in the Legislature, and during the entire time I was there we had a perennial issue that would surface every year; whether or not to let deer hunters hunt deer with dogs. Today the issue has evolved into whether or not to allow hunters to use bait to attract deer. This Bill has become an annual debate in the Legislature. Both sides are ardent and take their deer hunting seriously. Well it looks like the baiters have finally won. Rep. Danny Crawford (Republican-Limestone) has passed legislation that gives hunters the option of hunting over bait. The bill passed overwhelmingly in both chambers.

The deer hunting issue has been around forever. During the 1950’s and 60’s there was a legendary legislative sage named Rankin Fite of Marion County. Ole Rankin had been in the Legislature a long time. He was actually Speaker of the House well into the 1970’s when the first Ethic Laws were passed. Rankin was one of only six House members to vote against the Ethics Law. After the vote the media asked the former Speaker why he voted against the Ethics Law. He wryly replied, “It wasn’t tough enough.” He further pontificated this advice, “I voted for every tax, voting for taxes won’t beat you.” “I just voted against the Ethics Bill, voting against ethics won’t beat you.” “The issues you need to avoid are voting on daylight savings time or hunting deer with dogs.”

Gov. Kay Ivey has done a good job with her judicial appointments throughout the state. In 2017, she appointed Circuit Judge Brad Mendheim of Dothan to the Supreme Court to fill a vacancy. Mendheim is a very well qualified jurist to sit on the state’s highest judicial tribunal. Mendheim is extremely well liked and respected in his native Houston County.

In the 2018 elections, Mendheim lost a close election to Judge Sarah Stewart of Mobile. Gov. Ivey wisely reappointed Mendheim to the Court in the place of Justice Tom Parker who was elected Chief Justice.

Former Chief Justice Lynn Stuart, who Tom Parker replaced, has taken a seat on the State Ethics Commission. Judge Stuart was a Baldwin County Judge for 12 years prior to being elected to the Supreme Court in 2000. She served 18 years on the Supreme Court. Her term on the Ethics Commission is for four years, through August of 2023.

Gov. Ivey has set the Special Election dates for the seat of Dimitri Polizos in Montgomery. Dimitri, a popular restaurateur in the Capital City, died in March. The first primary is June 11 with a runoff on August 27. It is a Republican seat, which has drawn a crowded field of candidates.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

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