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April can be the cruelest month…for legislation

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

Time can be a friend or an enemy, depending on where you stand on a particular bill before the state Legislature.

Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided cannot stand,” to which I might add a House and Senate divide may be a good thing.

It is said that the Senate is a place where bills go to die. The reason one hopes that bills die in the Senate is that the Senate is more deliberative and therefore more scrutiny leads to the decapitation of bad legislation. Of course good bills as well as bad ones suffer death in the Senate.

Then there are ones like the charter school bill that while not dead is on life support due to a thousand cuts. Or ones like midwifery that can’t get an up or down vote in committee.

Then there is HB159 and 160 that are a part of the “jobs package,” and the latest whipping boy of the AEA.

While the bill sailed out of the House it is stalled in the Senate. Not by Democrats but by Republicans. The arguments are few but powerful. Some Republicans can’t see giving incentives to corporations simply because capitalist ideology does not support tax dollars being given to private companies. Some argue that because every other state is offering incentives to business so Alabama has to be competitive an offer them too. There is a certainly logic to that reasoning but there are those who wonder when enough is enough. Alabama according to the latest estimates receives no taxes from over 60 percent of the corporations doing business within our borders. Alabama Power pays taxes but other large companies do not. All the while it is the small business owner who bares the brunt of taxation. Some see this as unfair, other say that Alabama Power and even small businesses just passes the tax along to the customer. That is a thin argument since all businesses pass their cost on to their customers, that is how it works.

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Others see the bill as a way to retain businesses in their area such as Goodyear in Gadsden. Others will not vote for a bill that has the retaining provision in it because how do they know that businesses will not use it as blackmail to get more money.

Goodyear has been threatening to leave Gadsden for years. Isn’t that why they receive millions from Gadsden State?

Wal-Mart certainly isn’t going anywhere but they receive tax incentives.

Others believe that giving incentives out of the income taxes will hurt schools but even if it does result in helping schools by way of more jobs and more taxes some wonder if it is a burden that a ailing state cannot bear. Then there is the idea that government should not pick winners or losers whether it is Obama or the governor of Alabama.

Another powerful argument is that who receives the incentives and how much is left only in the hands of the Governor, the ADO and the head of finance. There is a fear that maybe you can trust this group but can you trust the next ones?

I too have a big problem with handing so much power to so few people. I see too many avenues for abuse, like cronyism, campaign promises made, hand outs to donors and ultimately indictments.

Do we really want another governor to go to prison?

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However specious one finds the pros or cons it is a bill unlikely to see the light off day.

I am happy I do not have to decide the fate of bills like HB159 and HB160 because frankly I am not sure how I would vote. But I do know that a no vote is easier to explain than a yes vote is too defend. Of course the easiest way it to let it quietly die.

In a strange irony for once the AEA and some very conservative Republicans want the same thing but for different reasons. In politics you just never know who might turnout to be your best ally.

Time is running short for this Legislative session and great battles are a head from immigration to the budget, to redistricting. Time is slipping and the state like the Fisher King lies wounded and this brave group of knights Perceval must complete their tasks.

We have a great group of women and men who represent us in Montgomery let’s offer our prayers and support as they face the hourglass.

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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