By Rep. Darrio Melton
“We dare defend our rights.” The state motto has been flaunted by politicians across Montgomery to promote partisan agendas for years, however Governor Bentley is taking the motto a step further by asking the Alabama Supreme Court to determine whether certain parts of the state’s General Fund budget are unconstitutional.
Bentley’s camp is saying that the Constitution creates certain powers for the Executive Branch that the General Fund budget attacks. Bentley is daring to defend his rights as Chief Executive Officer of the State of Alabama by challenging those provisions in court.
Let’s not forget that this is the same governor who has signed multiple pieces of blatantly unconstitutional legislation into law in the past five years–so the constitutional violations must be egregious for Bentley himself to ask the state’s highest court for a ruling. Nope.
The provisions Bentley is challenging are all safeguards to protect the people of Alabama from harmful effects of poor leadership in Montgomery. One provision Bentley is attacking says that DMV offices must remain open across Alabama–to ensure that drivers can renew their licenses and to ensure that voters can get photo IDs that are now required by law. Another aspect Bentley is challenging says that cuts must be made on the administrative end before cuts could impact services provided to Alabama citizens–to ensure that people who depend on state services for health care or child care are insulated from cuts as long as possible.
Now don’t get me wrong–I’m not defending this budget by any means. I’m unhappy with cuts to our classrooms and state employees while we leave billions in Medicaid Expansion money on the table. But I also don’t support resorting to cheap political tricks to rewind the process. We’ll continue the conversation and work on improving the budget next year.
Bentley, on the other hand, has no problem with political tricks. He never worried about unconstitutional laws at the same time he was bragging about saving the state over a billion dollars–mostly on the backs of working families who lost jobs and benefits. And he certainly didn’t care about constitutionality when he thought it was good politics–like when he signed the Anti-Immigration Bill or rushed to sign the Alabama Accountability Act into law. But now that it’s his own power that is being attacked, Bentley has suddenly found a new appreciation for the Constitution that he has so casually disregarded for the past 5 years at the taxpayers’ expense.
Truly, Bentley didn’t raise any of these concerns when the budget hit his desk–he simply raised his pen and signed. Now he’s trying to find a loophole to bring the budget back for consideration or increase his own authority where he has none. If Bentley wanted to protect Executive authority, he should have started by using his veto to kick back a bad budget, returning it to the Legislature without his approval.
Rep. Darrio Melton is a Democrat from Selma. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010 and currently serves as Chair of the House Democratic Caucus.