What a crazy day yesterday. Events took an unforeseen turn and forced us to change plans on the fly. Not uncommon in politics.

To sum up, the first bill that the Senate addressed yesterday was the bill to remove the state sales tax on food and eliminate the state income tax deduction for federal income taxes paid. That bill failed a procedural vote by a narrow margin, leading its proponents to begin a filibuster.

In the midst of the filibuster, the Senate adopted a special order calendar consisting solely of 100 local bills. Under more favorable circumstances, there would have been no debate and no stalling on any bill, allowing them to work that calendar at a rate of less than one minute per bill. In such a scenario, that calendar would have been completed early in the day, with plenty of time left for many statewide bills.

But the food tax bill proponents continued to filibuster the first few bills of that calendar, initially taking up to 40 minutes to speak on each. While that was going on, negotiations were taking place off the floor. Those negotiations led to some sort of possible compromise agreement, which it seemed to me probably involved a proposed amendment to the food tax bill that would allow it to pass. BUT, it required some research on fiscal matters related to the amendment.

So, the bill proponents agreed to stop their standard filibuster tactics of speaking for 40 minutes on each bill in order to allow the local bill SO calendar to make some progress. But to buy time for the continued behind the scenes dealings, they took up a different measure: a sort of “half-filibuster” by which they asked each bill to be read at length. This stalled and allowed them time to do the research and finalize the compromise, but obviously took less than the 40 minutes per bill that would have been dragging things down if a full filibuster were happening.

Sometime mid to late evening, the compromise was obviously finalized and the food tax bill proponents finally stopped their half filibuster and allowed the local special order calendar to proceed at full speed. But by then the mess had drug on for hours and hours. They didn’t finish the local bills until sometime around 8:00pm. By that point, some people were asking for a motion to adjourn. They were tired and hungry and sick of dealing with bills. Nevertheless, the Senate leadership was determined to adopt a calendar with some statewide bills and make some progress–yesterday was the last chance the legislature had to pass bills which would not require the Governor’s signature to become law. They didn’t want to miss their chance to get some bills through that might be vetoed by the Governor. They will have a chance to overturn any vetoes of yesterday’s bills when the return for their final day on May 19th.

But our lobbyist decided that under those circumstances it was likely they wouldn’t get through the entire calendar of statewide bills proposed by the Rules Committee, and he feared if we opted for a spot on that calendar we might not come up before the body adjourned. He therefore opted instead to wait for the final legislative day. It was critical strategic decision in a stressful environment, and it’s why we are paying him good money. The Senate only made it through 5 of the 17 bills on the calendar adopted last night. We would not have been in the top 5.

So now, again, we wait. And the dynamic has changed a bit. We really wanted to pass yesterday for the reasons stated above. Passage yesterday would have allowed HB196 to become law even without Riley’s signature. And/or a veto could have been overidden on the last day. If we pass on the last day, we must get Riley’s signature.

So, in addition to continued calls to your Senators, I think it might be a good idea to start calling the Governor’s office on behalf of the gourmet beer bill. As has been previously reported on this blog, Riley told us a couple years ago that he could see no reason not to sign a bill such as ours if it made it to his desk. But it’s been a while… and we’re not taking any chances.

The number for the Governor’s office is (334) 242-7100. I’d suggest calling and saying that you expect HB196, the Gourmet Beer Bill, to pass on the final day of the 2008 session, and you would like to see him sign it into law. Simple as that.