Alabama Legislature Recap Week 8: Shhhh! Maybe they won’t notice

April 14, 2017

By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter

Here’s breaking news: The Alabama Legislature did Legislature stuff this week.

That’s right, while you were busy watching the Luv Guv love himself right out of office in the weirdest way yet, our Senators and Representatives were discussing and voting on legislation.

Most of it was incredibly dumb, and provided clear evidence that our lawmakers mostly don’t care about the constitution, will choose money over kids and apparently don’t watch “Game of Thrones.”

Let’s recap, shall we.

Silly Sparrows

In a stunningly ignorant move – even for Alabama’s lawmakers – the Senate this week passed legislation that would allow a church, Briarwood Presbyterian Church, to form its own police force.

How such an idea wasn’t immediately laughed out of the room, I don’t know. Private police forces operating outside of the realm of public oversight and public disclosure laws – which is absolutely the way this force will operate, and was, according to numerous people close to the church, the primary reason for forming the force at all – always, always end badly.

The idea for this force came about after a series of drug-related arrests involving the upper-crust (white) students who attend Briarwood Christian private school a couple of years ago. The school and local officials tried their absolute best to cover up those arrests, but because of Open Records Act laws, even as flimsy as they are in Alabama, some details slipped out.

You can bet that won’t be the case if this legislation passes the House. Whatever happens on that campus, where rumors of drug problems and other crimes are rampant, will be swept under the rug and shielded from public scrutiny. And a few years from now, when something truly awful happens, everyone will wonder how we couldn’t see this coming.

Bad Day for Law

Wednesday in the Senate Health Committee was a particularly bad day if you care about the law and common sense and stuff.

For the better part of an hour, lawmaker after lawmaker brought forth one pandering, do-nothing bill after another – almost all of them assured to be struck down by courts because they violate long-settled constitutional protections.

There was a bill that would allow health care providers to refuse to perform certain services based on their “conscience.” Let’s be clear, if you have a conscience, you know this is a bad idea.

There was a bill that called for an amendment to the State Constitution declaring Alabama a “right to life State.” It did nothing, aside from pander to voters who somehow still fall for this ridiculous nonsense, and should result in us passing an amendment declaring the Alabama Legislature is a “time and money wasting body.”

There was a bill banning assisted suicide, which was so poorly conceived that the sponsor couldn’t explain the difference between a doctor who provides a dying patient more painkillers and a person who does the same.

And finally, there was a bill that makes it clear it’s OK for private adoption agencies to discriminate against gay couples and instead leave orphaned children parentless. The argument for this bill, lawmakers say, is that there are plenty of other agencies that don’t discriminate. So, essentially: “It’s only a little bit of discrimination – what’s the big deal.”

In the back corner of the committee room where this meeting was held, you’ll find a blood stain on the wall. It’s from me banging my head against it as grown men, including three doctors and a lawyer, passed all of these.

Kid vs. Money

That was the matchup Wednesday in an Insurance Committee meeting discussion about requiring state health insurance companies to cover autism care.

Republicans wanted no part of this. Because on one side, there was a room filled with angry parents and all of the public support you could ever hope for. On the other side was the Business Council of Alabama and a heaping pile of campaign cash.

Oh, how they tried to pull the usual tricks to shuffle this bill off the table and out of sight – to kill it without having to go on record voting against it. Suddenly, several men who have pushed some of the most ridiculous, wasteful bills in history were extremely concerned about not having an estimate from the Legislative Fiscal Office on costs. Let me be clear: Until that moment, I wasn’t sure most of those guys knew there was a Legislative Fiscal Office, much less cared what it did or what it said.

And of course, they didn’t care. They just wanted to hold the bill up and let it die in the dark.

But the room of parents, and the good lawmakers pushing their cause, won out. Because such pressure works. Remember that.

If you want to clean up Montgomery, stop wondering from afar how it can possibly happen. Because how it can happen is exactly the same way that autism bill passed out of committee – public involvement forcing accountability.

Big Finish

Since I know you’re concerned, I’ll update you on the protection of our Confederate memorials: they’re protected. A bill to guarantee that cities can’t move or alter or rename monuments, buildings and other things named for racist slaveholders or the leaders of a traitorous secession is advancing on as expected. Be proud.

Our roads and bridges, which are crumbling, won’t be improving any time soon. A gas tax increase that would have paid for such improvements failed in the House on Thursday. I know we all hate taxes, and I especially hate to see one that impacts the poor as much as the wealthy, but we have to do something soon. Because at the current rate, maintenance on cars from traveling these terrible roads will more than make up for the savings from not passing that tax.

And finally, one of the dumbest arguments ever popped up in a House committee meeting, where opponents of a bill that would allow for municipal broadband services argued against public intrusion into private business. Yes, because we all absolutely hate our city water, garbage and sewage services. And in towns, such as Chattanooga and Opelika, where broadband service has been provided as a municipal service, residents love it. Mostly because the coverage is fantastic. But then, is great public service really more important than lots of campaign donations from large telecom companies? Obviously not.

 

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