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The squirrels and others

By Joey Kennedy
Alabama Political Reporter

The Alabama Legislature came back into special session this week, after a three-week pause to build consensus on solving the state’s $200 million deficit in the state General Fund budget (SGF).

Lawmakers are rested and ready to get to work. They are focused, committed to finding a solution to this latest of Alabama’s serial budget crises.

Lawmakers are determined to stay on track and not to get distracted by . . .

Squirrel!

Marriage licenses? We don’t need no stinkin’ marriage licenses.

On the first day back to solve Alabama’s financial crisis, a Senate committee passed a bill that’ll take Alabama probate judges out of the marriage license business. That is, of course, a direct response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s earlier ruling that legalized same-sex marriages across the nation.

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Some Alabama probate judges refused to issue any marriage licenses rather than issue a few to same-sex couples. I guess where some Alabama probate judges are concerned, same-sex marriages ARE a threat to traditional marriages after all. We won’t have marriage licenses for anybody, just civil contracts.

The Legislature’s response, in a special session specifically to fix the state’s budget, of which marriage licenses have no impact: Make spouses file a signed marriage contract at probate judges’ offices. The bill will need a two-thirds vote because it wasn’t part of Gov. Robert Bentley’s special session call.

But don’t think the budget isn’t on lawmakers’ minds. The House Ways and Means General Fund committee defeated a bill to raise the cigarette tax by 25 cents a pack, which IS part of Bentley’s special session call. This would raise about $65 million a year, going a long way to solve the SGF shortfall.

Alabama has one of the lowest cigarette taxes in the nation, yet our state has no real tobacco industry. Still, 25 cents extra for a pack of cigarettes is a no-go. Even though it would discourage teen smoking, bring in lots of money, and still leave Alabama with one of the lowest cigarette taxes in the nation.

At least lawmakers remain determined to fix the budget in some other way. They’re not going to zero in on side issues that have nothing to do with repairing the ailing budget  . . .

Squirrel! Squirrel!

The Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee did approve a bill that will allow people to carry loaded handguns in their cars without a concealed carry permit. No, that won’t help the state budget, but it’ll likely make road-rage interactions more interesting; it’ll give law enforcement officers something else to think about when they stop somebody for a DUI or for speeding.

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This isn’t a new idea. The bill has been introduced in previous sessions, but hasn’t yet passed, thank goodness.

Right now, people must have a concealed carry gun permit if they want their Glock 9mm to ride beside them — or they must keep their handguns locked away and unloaded.

What our state needs more than anything else is easier access to guns and the ability to keep them loaded and close by. That’s much more important than a piddlin’ $200 million deficit in the SGF.

Focus, lawmakers. Focus. Remember, the budget! We need a budget, and by Oct. 1.

Squirrel!!!

This one is sure to make the SGF whole. Bills were introduced this week to make it a class B felony to offer or accept money for aborted fetuses. This brilliant state law was inspired by the secretly recorded videos of Planned Parenthood officials perhaps discussing selling fetal tissue.

Who cares if it’s already a federal crime to make such deals? This special session of the Legislature, paid for by Alabama taxpayers, may have been called to solve problems in the budget, but there are more other considerations, too. Like being on the right side of a polarizing issue when elections roll around.

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So here we have it. A special legislative session called by Bentley in early July to fix a serious budget crisis; a three-week vacation break by lawmakers to mull over proposals to do that; and a Legislature returned, all mulled out, and determined to tackle issues like marriage equality (already settled), loaded guns in cars (a horribly dangerous idea, no matter how much we love our firearms) and a redundant law outlawing the selling of fetus tissue (which is already outlawed by the federal government).

Yes, we may have to pay for another special session on the SGF, because so far it looks like the squirrels are winning the day.

 

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes this column every Wednesday for Alabama Political Reporter.
Email: [email protected].

Written By

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column each week for the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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