Slight power shift in state senate?

Three seats once held by Democrats are currently now open.
Three seats once held by Democrats are currently now open.

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Gambling is expected to be a hot issue when the legislature convenes next Tuesday. And, in the state senate, there will be three empty seats which could help create a shift of power between the Democrats and Republicans.

That's because this coming legislative session has all the trappings of even more squabbling and bickering than ever in the senate. The power has shifted a little. Normally, there are 22-democrats and 13 republicans in the senate. Even the two democrats who typically vote with republicans will only swell the minority number to 15. Republican State Senator Larry Dixon sees this as an opportunity for the republicans to be heard. "They had such a majority they didn't even have to consider what we're proposing. They need to consider it now."

That's because three democrats won't be returning. Senator E. B. McClain from Jefferson County's seat will remain empty because he was convicted on corruption charges. Senator Parker Griffith from Madison County was elected to congress and Senator Pat Lindsey from Baldwin County passed away recently and like the others a special election must be held to fill his seat.

Democratic Senator from Montgomery Quinton Ross says he does't think much will change. "Do we have less power? The numbers are. They are less. Yeah. Does that concern you? does that worry you? No it doesn't."

One of the places where power is exerted in the senate is at the podium. A group of senators can get together and if they don't like a bill they can filibuster that bill for days even weeks sometimes. It takes 21 votes to stop a filibuster - 18 if it's the budgets and right now the democrats don't have 18 or 21 votes and neither do the republicans.

"If you look at it nationally, the same thing is happening. Before a stimulus can be able to pass, you see republicans are against it. It's the same thing in the states" says Ross. However, Dixon sees it differently, "We're not saying it's got to be equal equal. We're not asking for a change in rules. We're just saying let our legislation through because you haven't done it for the last two years."

Along with considering a number of bills and the budgets senators must also pick a new leader - the president pro tem which is also controversial.

The Governor has already scheduled special elections for senators Griffith and Lindsey's seats and there is a possibility that the person who replaces Griffith could be seated before the session ends.