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Alabama, From a Sunshine State Perspective

By Joey Kennedy
Alabama Political Reporter

ST. GEORGE ISLAND, Fla. – Cross into Florida from Alabama on U.S. 231 and a driver immediately can see a state that does better than Alabama.

The roads tell the story. U.S. 231 is bumpy and potholish on the Alabama side; the highway becomes immediately smooth on the Florida side.

A short way into Florida one is reminded of something else Alabama lacks: A lottery.

Both Alabama and Florida are led by Koch Brothers-bought-and-paid-for Republican governors. Both Alabama and Florida have Koch Brothers-bought-and-paid-for majority Republican legislatures.

But Florida, though controlled by Republicans, still is doing better. That’s just the way it is. Don’t be defensive.

Yes, Florida Republicans do silly stuff. Republicans, those bought and paid for by the Kochs, just can’t help themselves. They’re in office because the dark Koch money put them there, and they have a particular philosophy, usually anti-immigrant, anti-women, and anti-voting by anybody who doesn’t look like them.

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Even with all that baggage, Florida does it better. It just does.

Our Koch Brothers’ governor, Robert Bentley, is caught up in scandal. To divert attention, he’s calling the Legislature in special session on Aug. 15 to consider a state lottery. Yet, it’s the wrong lottery.

Bentley wants the Alabama lottery revenue to go to the state’s perpetually broke General Fund. The problem is, the state’s perpetually broke General Fund, which pays for prisons and Medicaid and public health and such, is perpetually broke because of a Legislature that won’t raise revenues enough to pay for even the minimum of services.

And the Legislature won’t expand Medicaid under Obamacare because, well, it’s President Obama. Alabama could have received billions of dollars in federal funding by expanding Medicaid. Alabama didn’t.

Neither did Florida, by the way. As I said, Florida Republicans do silly stuff, too. They still run their state better than Alabama.

Consider: Our top three elected officials are involved in scandal. Former House Speaker Mike Hubbard convicted of 12 counts of corruption, sentenced to prison, fined thousands. Chief Justice Roy Moore, once again suspended from his position, goes on trial in September. Bentley, caught up in a sex scandal with a former top aide, is likely under state and federal investigation for other stuff.

Thus, a lottery special session.

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Every state has scandals of some sort or another. Even Scott in Florida has been linked to some scandalous activity, but, at least, not grabbing his top female aide’s breasts.

Legislators in Florida get caught up in various messes. But not to the extent of Hubbard’s crimes.

And the Florida Supreme Court, bipartisan and appointed, is led by a chief justice that hasn’t been suspended for being a homophobe like Roy Moore.

We’re on St. George Island this week with our hosts and friends Johnny and Missy Norris. It’s been mostly a rainy week, but it’s been a great week.

The island is peaceful and mostly quiet. It’s been a good week, even with the rain. The Gulf of Mexico is rough. The rip tide strong. No swimming for us.

As we drive around, looking at the sights, the development, on good roads, even on the beach, we’re reminded that even with Koch baggage, Florida does it better than Alabama.

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It simply does. It doesn’t have to. But it does.

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


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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