By Rep. Darrio Melton
This week, elected leaders from all corners of Alabama will return to Montgomery to do the people’s business in the State Legislature. We have some big issues to tackle together: a $700 million budget shortfall, a prison system on the verge of a federal takeover, a bankrupt healthcare system and suffering public schools.
These aren’t just budget items and bill numbers–these are real issues that affect real families across the state. We can’t afford for Montgomery politicians to play political games or seek self-serving interests any longer.
In November, the people of Alabama elected us to do better, not to continue pitching worn-out rhetoric. They elected us to lead.
I’m proud to see Governor Bentley stepping up to the plate and addressing our budget shortfall, and I’m especially proud to see that he’s embracing many traditionally-Democratic ideas to do it. Addressing the budget issues will alleviate the tension in other areas, giving us the flexibility to pursue viable options over the next four years. It’s a smart first step by the Governor.
However, Republicans in the Legislature have presented an agenda that makes it clear that they have no interest in wrestling with tough issues. While Democrats are working with the Governor to patch the budget hole and build a stable financial future, Republicans are making sure we can still use the electric chair.
Most Alabamians don’t have to worry about being executed, but they do have to worry about sending their children to quality public schools and keeping gainful employment to provide for their families.
It’s time for the Republicans to give the people who elected them more than partisan rhetoric aimed at non-existent problems. We need real solutions and real teamwork to build up Alabama for future generations.
But this teamwork must start with a clean slate. There are good men and women on both sides of the aisle who are unable to step up and have a voice because of a select few who are prioritizing special interests and personal gain.
We must demand better.
I’m ready to come to the table and work alongside Governor Bentley to build a brighter future for Alabama, and I encourage my Republican colleagues to join us. It’s time to push aside those who don’t have the best interests of Alabama at heart while we do the work we were elected to do.
When we walk onto the floor of the Alabama Legislature on Tuesday, we are no longer Republicans and Democrats, we’re elected officials representing the people of Alabama. It’s time we act like it.
Representative Darrio Melton is a Democrat from Selma. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010 and currently serves as the Chair of the House Democratic Caucus.