by Rep. Darrio Melton
I want to start this week by thanking everyone who has called my office, emailed me, Tweeted me or stopped by my office in Montgomery. I want you to know–I’ve heard your concerns.
It’s very clear to me that the people of Alabama are worried about what’s going on in Montgomery. They’re worried that our state parks are closing, some as early as May 1. They’re worried about cuts to our already-struggling mental health services, including the 14,000 Alabamians who will lose treatment. They’re worried about the children who depend on us–30,000 of them who will lose food stamps and 17,000 of them who will lose subsidized child care. They’re worried about our veterans’ services and ADEM and prisons.
And let’s be honest, there’s a lot to be worried about.
But while the people of Alabama have been worrying and calling and writing, the question stands: What are the Republicans in leadership actually doing about it?
For starters, they’re still pushing through the legislative calendar, but not making use of their time. Last week, the House was only in session for six and a half hours over two legislative days. The week before that, the House convened less than 10 hours over two legislative days. By law, we only have 30 days in the legislative session–shouldn’t we use those days wisely?
When the Republicans actually allow the legislature to convene, we’d like to think they’re working hard to tackle the tough issues facing our state, but that’s just not true. We haven’t been given many opportunities to vote on legislation that has a substantial impact on solving Alabama’s problems because the Republicans choose which bills come for a vote each day. And they’re choosing to spend 45 minutes discussing whether or not children could ride in the back of a pick-up truck on the interstate.
Coming up Tuesday, we have a full day of voting on bills that will change, impede or confuse the voting process. These are their priorities. They would rather let children go without the services they need, turn our veterans away at the door and shut down our state parks than bring the budgets up for a vote.
I’m ready to begin debating on solutions to the state’s $700 million budget crisis. I’m excited to talk about finding funding to double the size of our Pre-K program. My colleagues and I may not have all the answers, but we’re ready to start finding solutions that work to bring Alabama back from the brink of shutdown.
On the other hand, Republicans in the supermajority are going to betray the people of Alabama by hiding behind their pledge not to raise taxes and letting the government fail the very people it represents. They’re going to hope the people don’t remember their disloyalty, putting special interests over the good of our state. They’re going to hide behind rhetoric, but they know the facts.
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.