Ala. senator throws punch in scuffle with colleague

Friday, June 8, 2007

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Simmering tensions in the Alabama Senate boiled over Thursday when a Republican lawmaker punched a Democratic colleague in the head before they were pulled apart.

Republican Sen. Charles Bishop claimed that Democratic Sen. Lowell Barron called him a name with an expletive.

"I responded to his comment with my right hand," Bishop said. Alabama Public Television tape captured the punch.

Barron denied saying that to Bishop. He said the Jasper senator directed an expletive at him and he was trying to get away when he was hit by Bishop on the side of the head near an ear. He said he had not decided if he would file charges.

"I would like to finish today in a productive manner. I will evaluate the situation tomorrow on what I may do," Barron said.

After the punch, Barron went into a closed-door meeting with other Democrats. Sen. Vivian Figures went into the meeting carrying first aid supplies, but she said he was not hurt.

Bishop said he regretted throwing the punch because "that's not the way grown men solve their problems," but added that he would not immediately apologize to Barron.

The fight came on the final day of the 2007 regular session of the legislature. Republican senators were using delaying tactics to force Democratic leadership to bring up an election reform bill to ban transfers between political action committees.

Barron is chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, which sets the chamber's work agenda, and Republicans were angry that he had not put the election reform bill in a position to come up for debate.

The Senate had just taken a recess Thursday afternoon when Bishop approached the chair where Barron was sitting. Moments later security officers and others rushed to separate the two senators.

The Senate later considered censuring Bishop and expelling him from the chamber for the remainder of the day, but Bishop said that wasn't necessary and walked out of the Capitol, saying he was going home.

"I love every one of you. Most of all I love this chamber. I'm going home and you all have a good day," Bishop said.

Members of the Alabama House said the incident makes the entire legislature look bad.

"It's certainly a black eye on the Legislature and the Senate in particular," Republican Rep. Jay Love said.

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