By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
The Republicans in the Alabama Legislature have a little explaining to do.
No, seriously. I need them to explain something to me. And to you, the people who vote for them.
For the past several weeks, through committee meeting after committee meeting at the State House, I have watched Republicans disagree with other Republicans on a variety of very important, very serious topics. Everything from gun rights to abortion to same-sex couples’ rights.
But what I have rarely witnessed is a Republican vote against the bill of another Republican. And I have never witnessed that rare occurrence when the bill in question is a pandering ball of nothing.
Perfect example: On Wednesday in the Senate Health Committee meeting, Sen. Tim Melson took about five minutes to carve up Rep. Mack Butler over a bill banning assisted suicide.
Melson called into question Butler’s entire premise behind the bill. He argued with him over absurd statements that compared assisted suicide to murder. He even told Butler that banning the practice could place doctors in jeopardy and that it was like the Legislature was “playing God.”
And then Melson, after all of that, made a motion to give the bill a favorable report (which means to pass it, in legislature speak).
It makes no sense.
I understand party loyalty and all, but that’s not it. That’s pledging loyalty to stupid.
And it has become so common, so overwhelming that even some Republicans are starting to notice the absurdity of it.
A few weeks ago, Sen. Dick Brewbaker remarked on how troubled he was that his bill banning judicial override was so popular among his colleagues. That bill passed both houses and was signed by new Gov. Kay Ivey on her first day in office.
So, why was Brewbaker troubled? Because his bill was an exact replica of one that Sen. Hank Sanders, a Democrat, had sponsored each year for the last 10 years. It barely made it to the Senate floor for a vote in that time.
That means one party in the Alabama Legislature has determined that good ideas only come from that party.
That’s incredibly harmful. Not to mention dumb.
Believe it or not, people who think differently than you sometimes have good ideas. Sometimes, they have really good ideas.
Here, I’ll show you.
In that same Health Committee meeting, Sen. Cam Ward proposed the greatest idea you’ll hear this session: With every questionable bill that addresses a controversial issue, such as abortion or gay rights, Ward wants to attach an amendment that says only in-house legal counsel can defend the legislation if legal challenges arise. No outside counsel payments.
Ward said he was doing it because the costs of defending legislation that’s already been deemed unconstitutional elsewhere in the country was getting out of hand.
How out of hand?
With just a quick search of the State’s Open Checkbook online, for this fiscal year – which is a tad more than halfway over – I found more than $5 million paid to outside law firms to represent the state in ongoing litigation.
It has turned into one of the biggest money drains in the State.
And stopping it is a good idea. Even if it was presented by someone who thinks a tad differently than I do.