There are about two months left in this 2013 legislative session, and if the last week was any indication, they could be slow moving.
Democrats, as a result of the quick passage of the school accountability act Feb. 28, have said they want a more deliberative process. Last week, they often asked to have bills read aloud on the House and Senate floors, a time-consuming process.
"The Alabama Republicans and governor have made it clear that they don't want the people to know what is in the bills they are ramming through the Legislature," Sen. Tammy Irons, D-Florence, said. "... having the bills read at length is the only way we and the people of this state will know what is contained in these bad bills that the Alabama Republicans are passing."
On the other side of the aisle, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said the accountability act's changes in committee and quick passage through the House and Senate won't stop other bills from moving through the Legislature, including the upcoming state education and general fund budgets.
"This particular piece of legislation just ended up the way it did. We're proud of it; we didn't intend for it to stop the legislative process, and we're not going to let it stop the process," Marsh said.
Is there a difference between a bill that would allow a private company to build a resort and conference center on the beach of Gulf State Park and one that would allow private industry to manage the lodges and golf courses at other state parks, including Joe Wheeler and Guntersville?
Park officials say yes.
"With one, it's basically a bill to pave the way to create a new facility that isn't there today," said Greg Lein, director of state parks. "That stands in contrast to SB196, which basically gives us the legal option to let those (existing) resorts be managed," by private companies.
Senate Bill 196 by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, proposes a constitutional amendment to remove language that requires all state park system land and facilities be exclusively operated and maintained by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The amendment would go to voters in 2014.
Orr has said the state is only doing a little better than breaking even on the lodges and golf courses. Parks officials have expressed concerns about his bill, which he said is contradictory to their support of a private resort on the coast.
"To me, the big difference is that our existing parks were not designed to be privately run," Lein said. He said that privatizing lodges and golf courses won't solve the parks bigger issue — the need for more state funding.
"If people think that's the salvation of public parks, to put them under private (management), I don't know that that's going to save them because they're not located in tourist destinations like Gulf State Park."
Orr said the parks might attract more visitors if they were managed by a national hotel or resort chain that could market them.
His bill is expected to be in a Senate committee this week. The Gulf State Park bill already has made it through House and Senate committees.
Mary Sell can be reached at msell@TimesDaily.com.