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HomeNewsArchivesANALYSIS: SAVVY MAJORITY GETTING THINGS DONE

ANALYSIS: SAVVY MAJORITY GETTING THINGS DONE

April 11, 2001 – It was a tightly controlled majority bloc that dispatched a very ambitious agenda of bills and confirmations in just two days Monday and Tuesday.
The majority senators were aided by minority colleagues who seem uncomfortable in the role of agitator and tend to be more cooperative than aggressive.
That is not to say there were no clashes, but both sides were relatively subdued. They almost formalized their split, allowing Majority Leader Celestino White and Minority Leader David Jones to play out the major disputes.
On Tuesday, White repeatedly made references to the defection of two minority senators on a key vote, approving a $1.5 million increase in the Legislature's budget, praising the two, freshman Sens. Douglas Canton ("Canton can") and Emmett Hansen II. He taunted the minority further, saying the majority had designed the seating arrangement so that the pair were seated closer to majority senators than their minority colleagues in order that the majority could influence them.
Twice Jones demanded a point of personal privilege to respond to White. The majority leader had suggested that Jones was privately trying to undercut Emmett Hansen by misrepresenting his proposals in conversations with White off the floor. Jones said Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd shouldn't allow the debate to "degenerate to these lies that are placed on the record as true."
It was a majority senator who was caught in the middle when Jones challenged a ruling by Liburd that he could have only two minutes for his point of personal privilege. Sen. Norman Jn. Baptiste — a Democrat who reportedly gave serious thought to switching sides to the predominantly Democratic minority a few weeks ago — abstained on the vote.
Canton and Emmett Hansen voted with the other minority members (Sens. Lorraine Berry, Roosevelt David, Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, Vargrave Richards and Jones). All of the other majority senators but Jn. Baptiste (Sens. Adelbert Bryan, Donald "Ducks" Cole, Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, Norma Pickard Samuel, Liburd and White) voted to support Liburd's ruling. Thus, the challenge lost on a tie vote.
Once Jones began to talk in his allotted two minutes, he seemed hard pressed to sustain his ire even that long, but Liburd didn't interrupt him.
Liburd similarly defused a potential tirade by Donastorg by allowing him unlimited time to speak in the midst of his protestations that he was not being recognized to speak. Donastorg said he was not like another senator who would turn off the lights or the microphone if he were not allowed to speak.
The reference was to Senate bad-boy Bryan, who was a model of decorum Tuesday. In an apparent effort to showcase Bryan's professional behavior, the majority had him preside over the session in the evening hours, when much of the public could watch on television. He was lauded by members of both sides.
The majority kept things moving throughout the day, limiting debate by consolidating bills for discussion and by using a parliamentary maneuver to control what debate time was given. Majority senators would "object" to a colleague's proposal, thus obtaining the time allotted for the opposition, then return the time to the chair.
It helped that much of the legislation was non-controversial.

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