by Rep. Darrio Melton
Last November, the Alabama Republican Party swept all statewide constitutional offices and gained seats in the Legislature by promising “more jobs, less government and no new taxes.” Yet half way through the first legislative session since the elections, Republicans are already backtracking on these values and failing the people of Alabama by doing so.
For example, Medicaid expansion has been a hot topic for the past few years. Proponents see it as a way to offer health services to lower-income families to keep our hospitals from closing due to rising costs, while opponents see it as an encroachment of Obamacare. In order to find a solution that would be best for Alabama, Governor Bentley appointed the Alabama Health Care Improvement Task Force to explore our options. But Senate Republicans couldn’t risk the best option being Medicaid expansion, so they forced through a resolution to tie the Governor’s hands by preventing Medicaid expansion.
By doing this, Senate Republicans showed their priority is not what’s best for the state or finding a solution that works for everyone. They don’t care what the healthcare professionals recommend, as long as they can say they fought Obama.
In the House, Republicans have put forth a bill to prevent local governments to pass municipal ordinances to make working conditions better for the people in their cities. This extreme local interference bill, HB495, would prevent cities like Birmingham and Montgomery from making the decisions about what’s best for their own communities. While the Republican Party promises smaller government and less overreach, the bills they are putting forth show exactly the opposite!
Truly, Republicans are only against “government overreach” and “big government” when it prevents them from pushing their own agendas. When it’s convenient to their big-money donors, they don’t mind big government one bit.
Lastly, the Republicans in the legislature are failing the people of Alabama by practicing extreme partisanship and failing to address our budget crisis. We are facing a $700 million budget shortfall, and Republicans haven’t passed a single bill to address it. The party of “fiscal responsibility” thinks we can cut our way out of this crisis, and it’s just not going to work.
I do have to give credit on one point: I’m excited to see that Senate Republicans are planning to put aside their far-right, fundamentalist special interests and introduce legislation to allow the lottery. This is a great solution to patch revenue gaps without raising taxes or taking money out of hard-working Alabamians’ pockets. House Democrats have been introducing lottery legislation for years, but we don’t mind if they pass our bills with their names on them—as long as the peoples’ work gets done.
I’m hopeful that we can continue to work together to find solutions that are best for the people of Alabama. House Democrats are ready and willing to discuss the solutions we’ve proposed to mend the budget crisis and give Alabama a brighter future, but the Republicans are continually preoccupied with regulating morality and spouting off rhetoric before finding solutions.
That’s not what the people of Alabama thought they were sending to Montgomery, and I hope they’ll remember the difference between what the Republicans have practiced and what they have preached when the next elections roll around.
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.