I’m surprised we’ve never dedicated a post to the infamous BIR on this blog, as it is a commonly-asked question by people new to following the goings-on of the AL legislature.  For future reference, BIR is short for “Budget Isolation Resolution,” and it is a procedural vote all bills are required to pass in order to come up for a vote prior to the passage of the state budgets.  So every bill has to pass two votes in each house of the legislature.  And since the supposed purpose of the BIR vote is for the body to affirm “this is a higher priority than the budget at this time,” it has a higher threshold for passage: 3/5th of those in the chamber.  The vote on final passage only requires a simple majority.

The problem with this is that the budgets have to spend a lot of time in committee being developed before they are ready to be voted on.  The budgets are never ready to come up for a vote early in the session, so it’s pretty nonsensical to force all other bills to pass a vote intended to keep the budget as the legislature’s first priority.  This year it was impossible to bring the budgets up for a vote until last week because they were waiting on information related to the stimulus funding from the federal government.  So all those BIR votes that bills had to pass before the budgets came up were pointless, except to give a minority of legislators some power to stop bills favored by the majority.  2/5 +1 of Senators or Representatives can stop a bill with the BIR vote if they don’t like what the other 3/5 are doing.

For a more detailed history of the BIR, here is a good article: A Case for Fob’s Budget First