By Rep. Darrio Melton
Easter is a special type of holiday because it comes with a sense of new energy, new beginnings and new growth. Easter is a chance to challenge ourselves to find things in that are broken and dead that need rebirth. It is our chance to find those things in our life that need new life, to find things in our communities that need revitalization and in our state that need renewal.
We all wrestle with our personal fears, anxieties, concerns and unrest. But we as a community also wrestle with these same issues.
We, as a state, have problems and concerns that need to be addressed through a renewal process. We have old issues that need new solutions, and we have new problems that need creative, innovative solutions.
Alabama is one of the least developed states in the nation. One-third of Alabamians have no Internet access. There are roads and bridges that have fallen into disrepair. Alabama has no comprehensive public transportation system like in our neighboring states and no plans to restructure the tax code to be able to build one. These issues are not our State’s top priority.
Alabama has the second highest incarceration rate in the nation. The list of abuses at Tutwiler Prison grows longer each day, running the risk of a federal takeover. Yet we still refuse to adequately fund our prison system or reform the criminal code because the prisoners are not our state’s top priority either.
Alabama is one of the most unhealthy states in the nation, ranking 47th in overall health. Half of Alabama’s babies are born on Medicaid and hundreds of thousands of people remain ineligible for health care because the Governor is refusing to expand Medicaid or set up a state exchange under the Affordable Care Act. Access to health care is still not a top priority for Alabama lawmakers.
Alabama’s education system consistently ranks near the bottom of the barrel. Access to pre-k education is minimal, merit-based scholarships are few and our teachers are leaving the profession or going to work in other states. Meanwhile, we’re taking $40 million out of public education to send a handful of students to private schools and denying teachers the cost of living increase they were promised. These issues still are not priorities for Alabama.
These issues barely scratch the surface of those concerns that our government should choose to improve. It’s time for Alabama to become the best in the nation at something other than football. It’s time for Alabama to dream big. We need to take on these issues head first and develop comprehensive solutions to leave Alabama better and brighter than we inherited it.
We’ve left these issues on the table because of fears, anxieties and concerns from lawmakers, businessmen, lobbyists and voters. But we cannot continue to kick the can down the road. I have faith in Alabama. I have faith in our ability to dream big and move forward without fear. It’s time to demand the Governor and the Alabama Legislature do the same.
Representative Darrio Melton is a Democrat from Selma. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010.