By Joey Kennedy
Alabama Political Reporter
Happy New Year. Tomorrow is the last day in a dreadful 2015. Good riddance, I say. But I’m looking forward to a momentous 2016. Can’t wait for it to get here.
My wife and I usually do very little on New Year’s Eve. We have too many dogs who are freaked out by fireworks. We diffuse some essential oils, put on the soothing music recorded especially for the animals, and just hang out at home.
That’s a good New Year’s Eve to us.
Yeah, we’ll toast the new year, and we’ll think ahead.
Interestingly, the Alabama Legislature goes into its 2016 session on Ground Hog Day. That’s appropriate, considering the Legislature will likely repeat the past several sessions and special sessions. Trying to cobble together Alabama’s budgets has been a huge challenge for the Republican-dominated Legislature.
That “No New Taxes” stuff has come back to bite them pretty hard. So instead, the Legislature tries to budget by cutting. In a state that provides a bare minimum of services, that cut-now-and-ask-questions-later strategy just isn’t going to continue working.
On a personal note, Feb. 2, 2016, will be Veronica’s and my 36th wedding anniversary. I don’t know if we’ll be alive for our 50th anniversary, but if we are, I’m fairly confident we’ll still be married.
The start of the Legislature on our anniversary isn’t the only significant event falling on an important date for us.
Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard’s corruption trial starts on March 28, 2016. That is, unless Hubbard manages to get yet one more postponement. I don’t know that he will this time. This has been dragging on for more than two years, irrevocably damaging Hubbard’s ability to lead, regardless of and trial’s outcome.
Oh, and March 28 is my 60th birthday. That, for me, is a notable moment, considering that for much of my life, I always felt I would die young. I guess I am a pessimist at heart.
Now, if Gov. Dr. Robert Bentley in 2016 would announce he’s going to finally push for expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, that would be super. If he is going to make such an announcement, I wish he’d do it on Jan. 31. That’s my wife’s birthday, and it’d be a wonderful present (hint, hint!).
Truly, if Bentley and the Legislature had expanded Medicaid at the first opportunity, back in 2014, it’s unlikely the state would be having such budgeting difficulties. We’ve left billions of federal dollars on the table and turned our face away from huge economic development opportunities.
All that, at the expense of hundreds of thousands of poor, working Alabama citizens who cannot get health insurance without a Medicaid expansion. And our governor is a physician. And “Christian.” Shame on him.
It’s not as if we don’t want federal money in Alabama. We are fourth in the nation in accepting federal dollars just to exist at the minimal level we do.
Maybe the state Finance Department’s crappy software used to (not) pay vendors will eventually get up and running. The appropriate date for that would be April 1. That way, when it crashes again, Acting Finance Director Bill Newton can simply holler “April Fools!” and send out another of those memos warning state agencies and employees not to talk to the media or they’ll be fired.
Let’s hope the Legislature’s second special session in 2016 to pass a budget can conclude around the first Monday in September, Labor Day, just to remind lawmakers how labor-challenged they truly are.
But whom am I kidding? I guess I’m kidding myself. These professional, well-paid, part-time, partisan politicians actually believe they are doing a swell job. And voters in Alabama, more often than not, confirm that at the ballot box.
Once again, Happy New Year. It’s going to be fun.
Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every Wednesday for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]