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Bill Britt: Reading is fundamental, willful ignorance is a shame

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

Watching the Legislator debate pending bills last week I was struck by the thought that willful ignorance is the foster child of unintended harm. That voting for or against a bill without reading it is almost State treason.

Voting for or against a bill before the state Legislature without reading or understanding it is certainly betraying ones oath of office.

Yet, watching House and Senate proceeding–there for all to see– is the spectacle of many uninformed legislators. If ignorance were truly bliss then for some the Alabama House and Senate would be a place of abundant joy.

Before the beginning of the 2012 Legislative session I read every bill that was available on the State’s website. Yes, it was hundreds, yes, it took time but to accurately report on a bill it is important to understand what is in it. When I found a bill I could not understand or at least process the jest, I picked up the phone and called the bill’s sponsor.

Now, I have to say, that many Legislators did not call me back, I would like to think they were too busy reading the bills they were sponsoring to take time to return my call, but I doubt it.

Now, there are a great many legislators who are fully aware of the content of the various bills and many are authorities on the matter. Some Senators and Representatives  seem to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the bills they carry. Sadly, many don’t even have a cursory understanding about what they are voting on. Perhaps there should be a remedial course on reading comprehension given a few months before each session.

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Of course, this is why we have bad bills passed and also why it takes so long to pass good one. Is it not the responsibility and even duty of those who enact laws to actually understand them?

Is it so easy for these men and women to squander public trust because of laziness or willful ignorance?

So, then who educates these uninformed lawmakers? In a word, Lobbyist.

While these men and women have been given a bad name over the years, at least they are paying attention and a good many of them are wiser and better informed than many so-called lawmakers.

While these “Government Affairs,” professionals–which is their current Noms de guerre–may serve a special interest at lest they are especially interested in the results of a law. Wish to heaven that some of our lawmakers felt the same.

What are these women and men’s excuses for for ignorance, are they too busy?

The people of Alabama pay these people over $50,000 a year to represent them, for that kind of money the people deserve a lot more than they are getting.

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A salary of 50K is more money than most Alabamians make in a year.

Here’s a thought take some of that fifty grand and hire someone to record the bills and then listen to them while you travel to your next luncheon. Remember reading is “fun,”damental or did you miss that one?

Now, I was reading Moby Dick in the second grade because I had parents who made sure I could read, they didn’t depend on the school to teach me. Perhaps some of our legislators did not have parents that were demanding of excellence, perhaps some of our lawmakers were not inclined to learning. But for the sake of the people you serve, for the good of the state, please, pretty please at least have someone explain what you are voting on before you come to the floor.

The senate video tapes their session and the house audio records theres, I wish we could play these for all people of voting age in Alabama so they could see or hear what foolishness is on occasion displayed by their elected officials.

Honor, duty, state should be on the mind of every woman and man that has been chosen to sit in the Statehouse. For the sake of the state please don’t abuse your oath by willful ignorance, it is not becoming of your office.

If you read and understand this please pass it along to someone who may not.

I know that reading 1,000 bills may not be practical, but at least understand a summary before taking the floor and making a vote.

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Written By

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.


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