Steve Flowers: Governor needs to understand the legislature
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One would have to wonder what our current governor and legendary governor, Big Jim Folsom, have in common. Riley is quiet and calculating whereas Big Jim was loud, gregarious and somewhat uninhibited. However, both were given humiliating rebukes in their efforts to work with the legislature.

In the 1950’s Big Jim called for a special session to rewrite the Constitution and reapportion the legislature.

The legislature met only one day and adjourned. A few years ago Riley called for a special session within the regular session.

The current members of the legislature simply ignored him. Another similarity between the two is that neither had ever served in the legislature nor did they know many members personally.

Alabamians have a history of electing governors who basically have no governmental experience much less legislative experience. Please excuse the fact that I might be somewhat prejudiced in my next statement having served 16 years in the House, but it might serve a governor in good stead if he or she had legislative experience.

Legislators, especially if they have served for a decade or two, have learned a few things about state government. In fact, if they are moderately active and attuned they have gotten a feel for how state government operates. They understand the budgets and the budget process as well as the different machinations of how state government works. In fact, a very good argument could be made that if you were hiring someone to run your business would you hire someone who had worked in your line of business from the ground floor up or would you hire someone off the street with no experience?

A former legislator turned governor not only understands state government and how it works but even more importantly he or she knows the members of the legislature on a personal friendly basis. These relationships are invaluable in getting your program approved or at least addressed. Lasting lifetime friendship bonds are developed by legislative colleagues. They know each other, what they believe in, how they operate, what makes them tick, and whose word is good.

However, as I stated, we have had a penchant for electing governors who are basically outsiders beginning with Big Jim in 1946 who had never been elected to anything before becoming governor. In 1950 Gordon Persons was elected after having served one term on the PSC but had no legislative experience. John Patterson became governor in 1958 after having served one term as attorney general. He had no legislative experience and was elected out of sympathy after the assassination of his father Albert Patterson. Fob James became governor in 1978 and had no political experience at all. He was a dismal failure with the legislature. Guy Hunt was elected in 1986 and his only experience was as Probate Judge of Cullman County. Hunt actually worked hard to cultivate the legislature but failed. Little Jim Folsom followed Hunt for two years and his only political experience was being on the PSC. Fob came back again and was as ineffective his second term as he was his first. He was basically ignored by the legislature. Riley is in the same boat as Fob. He is basically irrelevant in the legislative halls.

You might have noticed that I skipped the 1960’s and 1970’s because George Wallace was governor. He was the most effective and powerful governor in history. Wallace also served in the legislature. He understood the legislature and legislative process. He knew every member by name and cultivated their votes and friendship. He was in a league by himself.

The second most effective governor in the past 66 years we just scanned would be Albert Brewer, who was governor from 1968-1970. He was adored by members of the legislature and they wanted him to succeed. Brewer, like Wallace, had grown up in the legislature. Both men came to the House at a very young age and became tireless workers. They spent long hours learning the rules and process as well as cultivating lasting relationships with their colleagues. They were very effective and knowledgeable legislators. Brewer went on to become Speaker of the House.

Seth Hammett, the current Speaker of the House, with 28 years in the legislature, the last 12 of which he served as Speaker, would certainly make him the best qualified candidate for governor since George Wallace and Albert Brewer. However, as you know, he is not a candidate.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 72 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the state legislature. He may be reached at
comments (7)
« YellowHammerFlicker wrote on Thursday, Sep 30 at 01:22 PM »
That is almost funny! You just keep believing that Riley is innocent, I know better. I know him personally.
« Heflinresident wrote on Thursday, Sep 30 at 12:49 PM »
Peole donate to politicians who have the same goals as they do, not necessary for the same reason.

Riley wants to stop Gambling in Al. because it is illegal, and probally because he wants to prevent the poorest among us from being taken advantage of.

Mississippi casinos don't want competition.

Riley did not change his values or was not influence by the campaign contributions.

Sparks will look the other way and not inforce the law allowing corrupt casinos to break the law without consequences.

We voted against the lottery.

We have never voted for casinos. The legislature did allow bingo for church/nonprofit groups and the chucky cheese loophole. Gambling groups have pushed the limits continously, and made contributions to politicians (to look the other way) until we have casinos in Al. Now who is being bribed?
« YellowHammerFlicker wrote on Thursday, Sep 30 at 08:52 AM »
Have you forgotten about the $13 million contribution Riley accepted from the Indian casinos in Mississippi? Just to keep gambling out of Alabama. If that isn't bribery, I do not know what is.

Sparks received $30 thousand from PACs associated with gambling interests.

So, you are saying Sparks is in the wrong but Riley is perfect.

A few of Bentley's misrepresentations are on
« HeflinResident wrote on Wednesday, Sep 29 at 09:48 PM »
Sparks plan is to take campaign contributions from Gambling boses and then look the other way as they wiggle out of paying taxes from revenues taken from the mathematically challanged.

You cant build a state on this kind of foundation.

That's what is great about America, you are entitled to your opinion even when it's wrong.

Would love to hear specifics abaout the lies.
« YellowHammerFlicker wrote on Wednesday, Sep 29 at 02:33 PM »
Riley, in my opinion, was one of the worst governors we've had in a long time. He is as corrupt as they come. One can only hope that he'll be punished for what he has done.

Bentley has proven to be dishonest. He has been caught in numerous lies already.

Sparks has plans to help Alabama, plans that he doesn't have to lie about. My vote will go to Sparks.
« HeflinResident wrote on Wednesday, Sep 29 at 01:10 PM »
I think Riley has done a fantastic Job. His understanding of Business has lead to the successful recruitment of numerous business into our state.

Yes, Experience is a good thing. We dont need lifelong politicians/government employees who have never worked in the private sector.

We also do not need a Governor who has been bought and paid for by the corrupt gambling interest(Sparks) or the AEA(Bentley and Sparks)

Sparks has 3 strikes (add being a democrat), sparks has 1 so my vote will go to Bentley.
« YellowHammerFlicker wrote on Wednesday, Sep 29 at 09:50 AM »
I definitely agree that the governor should have some experience. Riley has shown what happens without it. He doesn't understand how things work so he's basically running his own agenda. However, on the other hand, we do not benefit from the life long politicians such as Mike Rogers. Perhaps he started with good intentions but now it's just about the money.

We will continue to see issues such as this, as long as they are paid for holding these offices.