By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
Politics at its best is a battle of ideas, at its worst it is a war for power.
The process of turning ideas into legislative bills and then turning bills into actual laws is complicated, inspiring, absurd, joyous and insidious.
Two bills that passed the House this week are prime examples of the process, they were HB159 the jobs retention act and HB72 Unemployement fraud act.
Insidious certainly apply to how the Democrats and their commanders at the AEA approached HB159. To use a dictionary example, insidious mean treacherous or crafty: i.e., tangible proof of an insidious alliance. The AEA used scarce tactics to mobilize its members spreading lies that the bill would result in teachers being fired and education funds being pillaged. They even produced a robo-call that told their union member to press one to leave a comment for the Governor, press 2 for the Speaker and press 3 for the President of the Senate, these calls were then routed to these mens cellphone. During the floor debate they pulled legislators off the floor and threatened them bringing one lawmaker to tears.
These are such two of the many strong-arm, tactics employed by union boss Henry Mabry.
For reasons only comprehensible over at the AEA, Mr. Mabry–the new boss– decided to make his first show of power by defeating HB159. The union’s thuggish tactics did not work the bill passed with an overwhelming majority and Mabry left the Statehouse an angry but weakened leader.
Why? Because lies and cunning only work so many times, bullying is not a winning longterm strategy. Perhaps the AEA leadership should look at school policy on bullying and follow suit.
The people of Alabama have elected leaders who promised to bring jobs to Alabama. These leaders are working to do just that. The union’s goal was to flex its muscle and show the legislators where Montgomery’s real power lay.
It is evident that the real power at the Statehouse now is in the hands of the people’s elected representatives despite the union’s insidious tactics.
It must be said that Minority Leader Craig Ford showed wisdom and courage in voting for HB159, other Democrats did as well but as leader Ford is to be commended for standing up, when others stood down.
The bill HB 72 put forward by Rep. Paul DeMarco, was a very simple bill designed to stiffen penalties for those who welfare fraud. It was an uncomplicated bill with few moving parts.
The bill only strengthens the law already on the books.
But somehow, in debating the bill, two legislatures were able to turn logic and reason on its head. One legislature argued that if a person called-in to file unemployment and gave false information that it was the person at the call-center who was responsible. Their logic was that it was the duty of the call-center to verify the applicants information and if that person lied the call-center personnel was the one at fault because they did not catch them in the lie. I am not making this up, there is a recording of this whole conversation. Another legislator said he did not understand why a person receiving unemployment benefits should be fined or lose their benefits just because they were working a part-time job for cash.
He then went on a long rabble about how a person might smoke and little pot and get in trouble, and then get caught with a crack pipe and get in trouble but it didn’t mean that they shouldn’t receive full benefits from the government because they needed the money. He also thought that as long as the call-center folks failed to verify if the person was lying then it was the call centers fault not the person who lied about their eligibility for unemployment. This was a twisted, wildly unreasonable logic left the impression that it is ok to lie and to work while on unemployment as long as you didn’t get caught.
The bill passed easily in-spite of all the nonsense.
Of course, there are inspiring moments when you see men and women working together to make Alabama even better. It is a joyous occasion when a bill passes that might help a woman or a man find a job, provide for their family and live a fuller life. It is good to see legislators who are at the Statehouse for the right reason, that being to serve their fellow Alabamian with no thought of personal gain.