By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—The first week of the 2013 legislative session was a flurry of activity as the Republican House Caucus, “Dared to defend our rights.”
The Tea Party folks made a good showing at the Statehouse to kick off the session. It was a good-sized crowd that was estimated to be around 700 people.
What was most surprising to me is that many of the people I spoke with said that on Saturday, they sent a message to Speaker Mike Hubbard and his faction of the party by electing Bill Armistead to a second term. This was the big talk in the halls of the legislature as well, as lobbyists and staffers agreed with the Tea Party’s assessment.
Many of the Tea Party activist said they were taking back the Republican party from the corporatist and the legislature better pay attention because 2014 is just around the conner.
Veterans of the Legislature know that this is the last session to really accomplish anything meaningful because in 2014 everyone will be in full campaign mode.
The Governor’s speech was widely seen as a success. Governor Bentley’s belief in Alabama is real, even if the Democrats had objections to parts of his speech.
That is the responsibility of the loyal opposition, and Senator Tammy Irons did a very good job answering the Governor’s address for the Dems.
Speaker Mike Hubbard promised to drive through his agenda in the first week and that was accomplished. Of course, some of the bills are silly and meaningless, like the one to demand block grants for Medicaid. I am sure after it passed out of committee there was an emergency meeting in the Oval Office where President Obama immediately said, “Oh my, the Republicans in Alabama want bloc grants. Hurry, please amend the law and send them the money right away, they are daring to defend their rights.”
If the President ever thought about what the Alabama Legislature wanted, he would most likely tell them to drop dead.
But if the Legislature wants to waste time and money thumbing their noses at DC, I say have at it. The less real legislation they pass the better off the state will be.
With great fanfare HB8- Alabama Firearms Protection Amendment, has been heavily promoted by the Speaker’s office. According to the House GOP website, “With this amendment, Alabama’s 1901 Constitution will contain the strongest gun protection provisions in the country.” I like that, I am a gun owner and believe it is my right to keep and bare arms. However, no law passed by the Alabama Legislature will be able to prevent the federal government from exercising its power over state law. No matter how many pictures the Speaker has of himself firing a handgun, federal law trumps state law. I wish this amendment had any real meaning other than pandering, but it doesn’t. HB8 passed out of committee, and onto the campaign trail.
This bill HB57- The Women’s Health and Safety Act, is one that has been promised to Pro-Life conservatives for a long while. The GOP supermajority has found a multitude of ways to kill such bills. This is one too watch. It has been gaveled out of committee.
As promised by the Speaker the HB94- The People’s Trust Act was the first bill passed out of the House. On the House GOP website the leadership writes that, “When Alabamians overwhelmingly approved the transfer of $437 million from the Alabama Trust Fund to the General Fund budget, they did so, in part, because legislators from across the state promised that repaying this loan would be their first priority for the 2013 session.” That statement is far from a fact. The GOP passed the Constitutional Amendment at the last minutes without putting in a payback. If they had intended to pay it back they would have put it in the original CA. As for the CA passing, it was the AEA, Hospital Association, Nursing Home Association, others including Matrix that got the bill passed with little help from the Speaker or his lackeys. This payback scheme is a joke, 15 years with no interest? Come on, please. What bank makes those kinds of loans. In this case, the Democrats led by Representative Joe Hubbard came across as the conservatives offering to pay it back in 6 years with interest. Yes, they want to put a user fee or tax on tobacco, big deal. But that will never happen as long as big tobacco is lining the pockets of certain GOP leadership.
Also this week the HB84- The Local Control School Flexibility Act passed out of House committee. This bill has some problems, even if you are for charter schools or repealing tenure, etc. The language in the bill is so vague and ambiguous that it could mean pretty much anything.
Knowing the way the corporatists in legislature work, this is going to make some republican donor or friends of the leadership rich.
But in many ways this is a bill that is aimed at weakening the AEA. Last year, Henry Mabry and company kick butt, this is payback. I give this a wait and see. Hubbard seems to have won round one, but this is far from over.
The HB95- The Informed Voter Act passed out of the House committee, hard to say if this will amount to much in reality. Does anyone believes that the Legislature wants the public to fully understand what is going on? I don’t think so. Okay, maybe a few do. But the vast majority know that voters are dangerous, and if they really understood what some of these people do in Montgomery they would storm the StateHouse and bring back the guillotine.
HB102- The 21st Century Workforce Act, sounds good, but the devil is in the details.
HB101- The Red Tape Reduction Act. I wish the leadership of the GOP really cared about small business. It seems to me that the State is only interested in big giveaways to foreign corporations.
HB108- The Religious Liberty Act, there is a lot to be said about our cherished religious freedom, and the attempts of the federal government to mandate to individuals. But once again I doubt the Obama administration is going to be listening to the Alabama House. This bill passed out of committee.
HB109- The Medicaid Block Grant Compact passed out of committee. This bill is a silly waste of time. More wishing for fairies.
HB110- The Medicaid Fraud Reduction Act. This is an decent bill, but the fact is Alabama has very little Medicaid Fraud, if you don’t included what politicians say about Medicaid. This bill might help, but again, Alabama has a very good record on keeping down fraud.
All in all, it was an interesting week. The House Republicans are defending our rights or something, and the Democrats are trying to get a word in edgewise.
There was a lot of activity in the first week, but only a fool thinks activity is accomplishment.
But that’s how I see it, I could be wrong.