By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
Week No. 2 has come and gone in the Alabama Legislature’s 2017 Regular Session, and we’re left with only the memories.
And the awful legislation.
Let’s get to the recap….
If the first real day of debate on the House floor sets the tone for the rest of the session, we’re in trouble. Because Tuesday’s opening was as bad as it gets without a fire involved.
The first matter out of the gate, a resolution encouraging Congress to work with President Donald Trump on his agenda, was classic Alabama Legislature: useless pandering that served no one.
Rep. Marcel Black summed this up as well as anyone: “Has Congress ever done anything that we’ve passed a resolution asking them to do?” The answer, of course, is no.
Out of spite, or as retribution for all of the similarly stupid resolutions against President Obama, House Democrats filibustered the resolution for more than four hours, forcing Rep. Barry Moore, the sponsor, to answer question after question. If you’ve had the pleasure of speaking with Rep. Moore, you know that was quite the treat.
The Failing AAA
You’re not going to believe this: The Accountability Act needs another adjustment. I know, it’s only the third time in three years that lawmakers have returned with critical changes for the illegally-passed legislation.
During a heated public hearing on Wednesday, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh pushed changes that would alter where the tax breaks for companies making donations could come from and also redefined the schools from which students are eligible transfer and receive the credits.
Marsh was unusually angry, and his hostility was exceeded by several Democrats in the room who took issue with the amount of State money being devoted to students who transfer from public to private schools. In some cases, the private school students’ parents could receive tax breaks equal to nearly double what the State would pay in funding for the students to attend public schools.
There are also other issues, such as many of the students receiving private school scholarships are not zoned for a failing school and that nearly a third of the private schools to receive funding weren’t accredited.
That there are problems with the AAA should come as no surprise, since in order to believe that this might solve the state’s education issues, you would have to believe that the problem is the actual brick-and-mortar school building. All the AAA does is allow students with means to transfer out of an underperforming school, leaving behind a school that’s still underperforming and still serving students.
It was like catching a glimpse of Bigfoot. At first, you didn’t really understand what was happening – was that a Republican agreeing with a Democrat? – and you had to lean in to be sure you weren’t hallucinating.
But yes, on Wednesday afternoon, there was bipartisan agreement among Alabama legislators on a bill dealing with a usually-controversial topic – the death penalty. Not only are lawmakers from both sides seemingly prepared to pass a bill that kills judicial override in death penalty cases, the House Judiciary Committee also rejected attempts that would have removed language requiring a unanimous jury vote for a death sentence.
A pessimist might point out that this bipartisan effort comes only after Alabama is the last state in the country to allow a judge to override a jury’s decision on the death penalty. But no pessimism here.
The House was the Week 2 winner of our weekly Not The Worst contest. It won by doing nothing.
In two days, it managed to pass a bunch of sunset law reviews that took less than a half-day on Thursday and two of the most worthless bills we’ll see. One was Moore’s Trump bill that clogged up the first day, and the other was a bill entitled “Americans First.”
With a name like that, you know it’s going to be dumb. And it didn’t disappoint.
At a public hearing on the bill last week, Rep. Phil Williams could barely describe what the purpose of the bill was, outside of being an outright pander for votes. On its face, it prevents college campuses from becoming sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants. But at that hearing, Williams admitted that no college in Alabama has such an issue and that Federal law already prevents it.
The loser of our Week 2 award, the Senate, got there through maximum effort to continue the State’s legacy of poor and hypocritical governance.
A Senate filled with conservatives who decry government overreach took up a bill that would limit cities and counties from renaming and moving monuments and also passed a bill that restricts the oh-so-dangerous over-the-counter eyeglass market.
So, to recap: We support whatever it is Trump is doing until he’s impeached, we’re preventing colleges from doing stuff they weren’t doing, don’t you dare rename that street that’s honoring a traitor to the country and we’ve decided you’re getting off way too cheap on those reading glasses.
It’s going great!