By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
House Democrats met on the steps of the State House on Wednesday to lay out their agenda and to offer some stern criticism for the Governor and House Republicans.
House Minority Leader Rep. Craig Ford (D-Gadsden) opened the meeting with some critical words for the Governor. “The governor has offered no solutions,” said Ford, “only we will stand up for the working families of Alabama.”
The Democrats, now the minority in state government, are looking to put forward their plan for the session. It was surprising that only eleven of their number attended the event announcing their Job Creation, Education Bills.
“We have a 25 percent shortfall in the General Fund budget, and the Governor said he isn’t going to raise taxes or take money our of the reserve funds,” said Ford.
“If we cut Medicaid by 25 people people will die.”
Ford who has stated that he might be a candidate for governor sounded like a man already on the stump. Joe Hubbard (D-Montgomery) took the microphone after Ford.“When you look at the jobs bills that Democrats and Republicans are sponsoring, there’s a lot of common ground there,” said Hubbard. “There shouldn’t be any reason why we can’t come together and work these bills out so that both Democrats and Republicans can support them.”
Hubbard said he is sponsoring two economic development bills this session. The first will create a small business loan program that grants loans for startup cost to new businesses that create a minimum of 5 new jobs. Hubbard said his second bill requires state contracts go to companies that have a workforce where at least 50 citizens of the employees are Alabama citizens.
Rep. Merika Coleman (D-Birmingham), an assistant professor at Miles College, spoke about the need to protect the successes Alabama schools have made and to build on those accomplishments. “Our children are our most important resource,” said Coleman. “We must give them every opportunity to achieve.” She also said that the state needed to reward excellent teachers, keep its promises to them and fight hard for public education.
Ford said he planned to fight for a 4 percent pay increase for teachers and all state employes. Ford’s solution to the state financial crisis was to raise taxes on corporations doing business in Alabama. This strategy echoes the Obama Administration and national democratic parties meme. Ford also resurrected a failed idea from the Don Siegelman days. “We need to start considering alternative ways to raise revenue, such as a state lottery,” said Ford.
Former Alabama U. S. Congressman Artur Davis said in an interview with the ‘Alabama Political Reporter,’ that Democrats had to offer more than gambling to voters before they hope to return to a statewide party.
Much was made of Alabama’s immigration law with repeated references to the cost and its unintended consciences. Ford and others even went so far as to say that the State’s Attorney Luther Strange had called the law unconstitutional. There is no public reference to the AG ever saying that the law is unconstitutional.
Ford said that the people of Alabama need more from the governor than, “Sermons, cake and ice cream.”
Out of power a small band of House Democrats gathered with some ideas and a lot of criticism.