By Joey Kennedy
Alabama Political Reporter
So, once again, a special session of the Alabama Legislature is a failure. Hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars down the drain.
That should come as no surprise. Most Alabama legislative sessions are a failure, and have been for years.
Heck, even former Alabama Speaker Mike Hubbard, a convicted felon now, would say the first special session in 2010 after Republicans won a supermajority in both the House and Senate is a failure.
Hubbard didn’t at the time, of course. He and other Republicans lauded that special session for passing tougher new ethics laws.
But when Hubbard was indicted for corruption under those laws, he said, basically, they were a mistake. Criminals tend not to like the laws that catch them in a web of wrongdoing; Hubbard simply thought he’d never get caught.
This expensive special session was called by Gov. Robert Bentley mainly to pass a lottery. One of the lottery proposal’s problems was that revenue would flow into the state’s always- beleaguered General Fund. Voters wouldn’t have wanted that. They don’t trust lawmakers to spend their tax dollars efficiently.
After the only lottery bill that had a chance to succeed failed, an upset Bentley said, as reported by APR’s Brandon Moseley, the Legislature, “voted against a half-million children in poverty.”
It just doesn’t get much more hypocritical than that. The lottery funds supposedly were going to prop up the ailing Medicaid program.
If Bentley and lawmakers had simply expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act in 2014, that wouldn’t be as much of an issue. Hundreds of thousands of Alabama’s working poor would have had access to health insurance they don’t have now, and the influx of federal funds to pay for Medicaid would have brought the state no telling how much economic development and higher tax dollars.
Most Alabamians, if they’re going to support a lottery, want the proceeds (at least most of them) to go to education, as happens in many other states with lotteries.
Moseley also reported Auditor Jim Zeigler’s reaction to Bentley’s hypocrisy. Suddenly Bentley cares about poor people. Said Ziegler: “The $1.8 million Gov. Benedict diverted for his Gulf beach house could have gone for those poor children. The 80 percent pay raises he sneaked through for his cabinet could go for those poor children. The hundreds of thousands he is wasting on his aircraft fleet could go for those poor children. The $35 million in BP funds he is holding hostage could go for those poor children.”
Zeigler can sometimes talk cray-cray, but he’s spot-on this time. And Zeigler, remember, is a Republican, like Bentley. Like the supermajority in the Legislature. Like every statewide elected official in Alabama.
Republicans hold a huge advantage, yet they can’t get along well enough to pass successful legislation.
So here we are, spending on all sorts of expensive side projects that won’t help Alabama residents, yet voters continue to elect Republicans in droves.
It’s sort of time to get it, don’t you think? The other problem is, however, that with the state Democratic party in complete disarray, there are few alternatives.
Moseley reported that Bentley may yet call another expensive special session. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is, apparently, Republican. Or something.
Our state is stuck in do-nothing limbo, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get much better any time soon.
Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]