The Republican-led Alabama House passed a bill to end special elections for U.S. Senate vacancies, like the one that found Democratic Senator Doug Jones elected in a surprise upset after the seat was vacated by current U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The bill will now head to the state Senate.
Not only would governor-appointed senators get to stay seated until the next general election, they'd be allowed to remain in office for another two years if appointed after the "qualifying period" for the current general election cycle had already begun.
The bill was first filed in August before the special election won by Jones. Alabama House General Fund budget chairman Steve Clouse, a Republican, said he introduced the bill as a cost-cutting measure. He estimated the special election that occurred after his bill was introduced to be $11 million.
Democrats balked at the bill, saying the reduction in cost isn't a justification for permitting governor-appointed senators to remain seated longer in a position that's supposed to be filled through the democratic process.
"Is the cost more important than the citizens having a voice?" Democratic State Rep. Mary Moore asked.
Republican Governor Kay Ivey, who convened the special election that Jones won, has not yet issued a comment in response to the House passage of Clouse's bill.