By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
George S. Patton once wrote, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”
Perhaps Senate President Pro Temp Del Marsh, Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard and Governor Robert Bentley are tired. That could be an answer for why late Thursday afternoon Hubbard told reporters, concerning the controversial School Accountability Act, “There are some things obviously that need to be changed.”
All Thursday, rumors were circulating that Hubbard, Marsh and the Governor were looking for possible ways to compromise on the bill.
More than likely Marsh and Hubbard are surrendering to the political realities that this bill is not popular with the voters.
It is also more likely that Governor Bentley has realized that once again Hubbard and company have not been straight forward with him. And that the good he had hoped to accomplish with what he was told was a good bill, is a flawed pieces of legislation with unknown consequences.
Last Friday, the Triumvirate took to the airways extolling the virtues of School Accountability Act. Using words like “Historic” to say that the children of Alabama for the first time would have an escape from failing schools.
Many conservatives had a reason to celebrate, I too have been an advocate for school choice and have written about it in this journal.
However, I took issue with the fact that the School Accountability Act was passed under a cloak of darkness.
Being present in the Senate press box the night the bill was passed it was obvious that most if not all of the legislator had no idea what was in the bill, they were only told this was a bill that would bring school choice to the children of Alabama.
The first thing a conservative minds should ask when we hear the words, “It is for the children,” is, “What is this really about? How much will it cost? And who is going to make money?’
The first thing I asked when the senators were coming out of conference committee was, “Where is the fiscal note, How much is this going to cost?” The answer was, ‘We don’t know.’
And we still don’t know. I had one person tell me, ‘We won’t know until the bill is signed.” Because I don’t want to embarrass the fellow I will leave his name out, but is this not the same kind of chicanery the democrats used to pull? Isn’t this what Nancy Pelosi told us about Obamacare?
When I cast my vote in 2010 for Del Marsh and Scott Beason as my senators and Jim McClendon and Randy Wood for representatives I did not vote to give them the power to place unfunded mandates on the taxpayers of Alabama. I didn’t vote to give them the power to pass new programs without knowing the cost. But that is exactly what they did last Thursday.
Last May I interviewed Speaker Mike Hubbard at that time he said to me, “We’re all about transparency and openness so people know what’s going on and that there’s no surprises.”
The passing of the School Accountability Act lacked none of the qualities Hubbard spoke of in 2012.
Hubbard told AL.com, (because his office refuses to communicate with this publication we were denied information) “There are some definitions that need to be changed,” Hubbard said. “Maybe definitions on some caps dealing with certain income levels. There are some things that the school superintendent sent over that might need to be changed. So I think we could make it better. But at the end of the day, we don’t want to risk killing the bill. I think a lot of them can be handled by regulations and promulgating rules.”
Hubbard and Marsh didn’t want to risk having the bill killed in the first place that is why they hid its content from even the bill’s supporters.
Not because union boss Henry Mabry would kill it but because many “Real Republican,” as Hubbard likes to say, would not have voted for this bill.
The Accountability Act in fact has no accountability to it.
The other thing lurking in the background like a steady drip, drip of reality is that this so-called School Accountability Act, is polling like a dead skunk. The polling data shows that the negatives for this bill are as high as the positives for Governor Bentley. Yes, it is an AEA-paid-for poll but as my pappy used to say, “You can take a fact off the devil’s heel and it is still a fact.”
School choice, improving the education of our children are all wonderful ideas, this bill not so much.
Perhaps Hubbard and Marsh are tired, perhaps the Governor was taken in? I don’t really know.
But today, it seems all the glory and hype around the School Accountability Act was just that, hype.
Patton also warned that a man should not take counsel of his fears, I believe the fear of the next election may have had more to do with this sudden change of heart than the fact that they want this is be good for the children.
I mean it is always about the children until it might cost someone an election.