By Representative Darrio Melton
The trouble with a supermajority is that it overpowers the democratic nature of our republic. Some voices are silenced while others are given a microphone and a small group in leadership is allowed to set the tone and direction of the entire state.
This legislative session, the Republican supermajority has promised not to let any controversial legislation onto the floor. It’s an election year and they don’t want to be forced to vote on high-profile issues.
But what happens when there are controversial issues that we need to discuss on behalf of our districts? What happens when our constituents’ needs conflict with those of the Republican leadership?
The people lose.
People from across the state have been calling for Medicaid expansion, but there has been no action to move this forward. Alabamians are asking for a discussion about raising the minimum wage, but the committee chair has turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to multiple requests for a public hearing.
When two-thirds of the legislative body come to the table with an absolute “no,” one-third of the state’s interests are ignored from the start. We can’t build good legislation when one side refuses to budge from rigid extremes to consider the needs of the minority group.
We are here to do the people’s work, not pacify lobbyists and get reelected. We are here to represent the needs of our constituents, whether their requests are controversial or agreeable.
Other states are able to do this without any issues, and Congress was able to do it in the past.
Just last week, West Virginia’s House of Delegates passed a minimum wage bill 89–5, despite their nearly-even partisan breakdown. Furthermore, 65 current Republican Congressmen voted to increase the minimum wage in 2007, including the entire Alabama delegation.
We are not unfamiliar with cooperation and collaboration on these important issues. It has been done successfully in the past.
It’s time to return the Alabama legislature back to the people. Demand the legislature work together for the constituents, not pander to a base and vote based on polling numbers. It’s time to do what’s right, hold leadership accountable, and bring all voices back to the table.
It’s time to end the troubles with a supermajority.
Representative Darrio Melton is a Democrat from Selma. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010 to represent district 67.