By Rep. Darrio Melton
I would start this piece by talking about how the Legislature finally adjourned for 2016, but the past few years have shown that adjourning from session is really more of an intermission in the legislative process.
Over the past few years, the “regular session” has simply been “part one” to the circus of Republican leadership, because we know we’re always coming back for at least one special session to finish what wasn’t accomplished the first time.
Despite the super-majority’s ability to bring bills up out of order and set the agenda for each day of session, remarkably little gets done during the regular session, and this past session was no different.
Thankfully, the chaos kept some bad legislation from becoming law, but the chaos and lack of leadership from the GOP prevented the Legislature from debating and deliberating the tough issues facing our state: our struggling Medicaid budget, our failing prison system, our underfunded education system, and the list goes on.
The fact remains that we typically have 8-9 months in between legislative sessions that we could use to meet, plan, and build consensus. We have plenty of time to bring people to the table to work out solutions to these issues and move forward into the legislative session with a plan and a purpose. At the least, we have plenty of time to find out where each of the 140 members of the Legislature stand on these issues to move closer to a consensus and avoid filibusters and stalling techniques.
Unfortunately, too many members of our government are preoccupied with their own personal problems to put the needs of the state first, and the tax payers are feeling the true weight of it.
Poor leadership in the Republican Party is costing our taxpayers millions to fund special sessions every year, when these issues could be avoided simply by bringing voices to the table, listening to where people stand, and planning ahead.
Too few people are willing to compromise and work towards a common ground goal that works for all Alabamians. There are too many people who call themselves leaders who would rather shut down the legislative process than concede that they might not have all the answers, or that their solution might not be the best solution.
We can work together and make decent plans into great plans. We can hear each other out and find common ground. We can work together towards solutions, not party-line bickering. That’s what leadership is about.
Part one of the 2016 session is in the books, but a special session is looming around the corner. Let’s take this opportunity to get it right.
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.