By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Just days before the start of the 2013 Legislative Session, Jason Isbell, Legislative Counsel for House Speaker Mike Hubbard, sent a late night email to members of the House Republicans Caucus with a veiled threat for anyone who did not get on board with the School Flexibility Act.
In the email Isbell says, “Speaker Hubbard plans for House Bill 84 sponsored by Rep. Chad Fincher, to be voted favorably out of the Education Policy Committee next Wednesday.”
This begs a few questions, if the Speaker of the Alabama House is already planning for a favorable passage, why bother with hearings at all? If Hubbard has a plan in place, dare anyone challenge him? Is not the policy of the committee suppose to evaluate the bill or is it a rubber stamp proceeding? For the past two sessions, Hubbard has unilaterally decided what would come out of committee, what would come to the floor and what would finally pass. Few have dared to deny the Speaker his wishes without fear of reprisal. Hubbard made it clear in his tour de force, “Storming the StateHouse,” that punishment should be meted out to those who did not tow the line.
In the email by Isbell, this philosophy of punishment is once again implied.
Isbell writes, “Passage of this bill is important for several reasons. One, the bill provides educators with the very freedoms that they have been clamoring for over the last two years. Two, the bill represents a significant step—both substantially and and symbolically—in our fight to improve our state’s education system.”
In number three comes the threat, watch closely, “Three, and equally as important, it will be incredibly difficult for Legislative Leadership to strongly support other education-related issues if this, the centerpiece of their Legislative agendas, fails to make it to Governor Bentley’s desk.”
Translation, ”If you don’t vote the way Mike wants you to, any bills you want to pass on education are DOA. You follow, little fellow?”
This report is in no way a comment on the merits of the bill itself, but on the threats that face those who do not obey.
Do the people back home in the districts know that their elected officials are threatened?
Do they know how many of their leaders kowtow to the wish of one man or his special interests?
“We dare, defend our rights” is the state motto, and the one the GOP caucus has adopted for this session. Has it been highjacked to mean, “we dare not challenge the whims of leadership?”
Is it not a responsibility for every elected official to think in terms of his or her district and conscience before those who elected them? Or, are these men and women mere pawns in a devil’s bargain?
Time will tell if the state legislature is governed by principles of good government or the rule of one man. This email from Isbell has the odious smell of the worst kind of bullying.