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Alabama Legislature Week 3: Take the gun, leave the backpack

By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter

It’s hard to believe that we’re already through Week 3 in the 2017 Regular Session.

Actually, wait, no it’s not. It’s very believable, since these folks work like four hours per day. They showed up at 1 on Tuesday and bounced by early afternoon on Thursday. And somewhere in the middle they found time to criticize other people for taking state money and not doing enough work.

But so it goes. Let’s get busy with the recap….


The Downside of Up

There was a lot of back-slapping for the Senate’s passage of a bill ending judicial override, and deservedly so. It was a good bill. The “controversial” bill ended up passing with just one no vote, which came from Sen. Trip Pittman, who is the real life incarnation of every angry, overly-strict adult prior to the perspective-altering series of events in every movie ever made.

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Anyway, this was a good thing – taking away the right of a judge to override the opinions of 12 jurors. But it’s less of a good thing when you consider how long it took Alabama to pass this legislation and how the legislation was passed.

This bill was brought by Sen. Dick Brewbaker (R-Pike Road). But it was the same bill that Sen. Hank Sanders (D-Selma), has brought for years. And when I say it was the same, I mean identical. Brewbaker told me that he copied Sanders’ bill verbatim, with Sanders’ blessing.

For 10 years Sanders brought this bill. It made it out of committee once, and never got a floor vote. In 10 years!

Brewbaker brings it and there’s one no vote as it sails through?

Even Brewbaker said he was somewhat troubled by what that says about the Alabama Legislature. And he should be. Because there are only a few possibilities for why he had such success where Sanders failed so badly, and all of those possibilities are bad.

I make a lot of jokes about the Legislature and our State government in general, but let me be serious for just a moment: A lot of lawmakers should take a look at this and seriously ask why so many had a change of heart on this bill. Why so many didn’t bother to consider it just a year ago.

And they might consider if they’re dismissing bills simply because of the sponsor or who supports it, instead of judging the legislation based on its merits and its effect on people.

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The Gun Question

Outside of the House Judiciary Committee meeting on Wednesday, I had possibly the most confusing conversation ever with a lawmaker.

Rep. Lynn Greer (R-Rogersville) had just introduced a bill that would have provided firearms training for church security forces – a service Greer adamantly insisted was necessary. He also was adamant that this training was “very important” to ensure the safety of the congregation.

Greer said he wanted to be sure that the security guards “know how to use a gun properly.”

So, with this context, I wondered if Greer had similar thoughts about guns in general. You know, if you want the security guard to know how to handle a gun for the safety of the congregation, don’t you also want Joe Public to be trained so he doesn’t kill his family members at home or one of us when he goes vigilante on a Walmart shoplifter?

Turns out, no. Greer draws the line there.

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Greer said he wants to “make sure they (security guards) know how to use (guns),” but he doesn’t want to extend a training requirement to regular people because “that’s not something that I think is necessary, we just need to hope that when it comes time to use that (gun) they know what they’re doing.”

Yes, let’s do hope so.

Greer did say he’s in favor of pistol permits, so we got that going for us, which is nice.


The Disconnect is Strong

One of the first requirements for any State lawmaker upon winning a seat should be to travel to every district in the State and receive a tour of that district from the people who represent it. That tour should include both ends of the spectrum – all that is good and right with the district and all that is wrong, poor and in need of help in the district.

Maybe then we could stop ridiculous bills like the one Rep. Tommy Hanes is pushing, which would impose more requirements on people receiving food stamps.

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Look, no one likes a lazy moocher. No one has any interest in forking over our money (that’s right, us liberals pay taxes too) to unmotivated, worthless people who suck up resources that could be going to the really needy.

But it’s time a whole bunch of people in this State – and around the country – come to realize that your life is unique to you. It’s not the same life everyone else has. Your opportunities, your chances, your tools aren’t available to everyone.

If you would realize that, it would save us all having to witness people, like poor Rep. Ralph Howard, attempting to explain that requiring 20 hours of community service of a man who has no means of transportation is the same as requiring that he walk on water.

Because not everyone is living a life like you are.

As Howard and his minority colleagues on the committee explained this reality to Hanes – in the kindest, most gentle manner imaginable – it became obvious that Hanes never considered it. In fact, he said as much.

He just assumed that people were choosing not to work. That it was a ,

atter of will, not a matter of circumstance.

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A few trips around the state would solve that misconception.


Big Finish

There could be an exception to Alabama’s voter ID law – a religious exemption. Turns out, despite what conservative lawmakers and voters have told us, not everyone has a photo ID. A religious group from north Alabama filed a complaint with the Secretary of State’s office saying their members didn’t have the IDs. In the meantime, the voters disenfranchised because of this worthless law have no exemptions.

Another bill pushed by Greer, which would have allowed wineries to operate in dry counties in Alabama, seems to have died. In a very candid moment, Greer said it died because the lobbyists for beer and wine distributors killed it. The reason: “There’s no money it for them. We can’t figure out a way for them to get any money out of this,” Greer said. Compare this to the food stamp legislation. And that’s your legislature at work.

Well, sort of at work. One of the first items on the agenda for this third week was a resolution from Sen. Gerald Dial asking that teachers educate students on the health risks of … heavy backpacks. No, I’m being serious. Heavy backpacks.

While they’re at it, they should educate everyone on the potential dangers of wearing short waders in the State House.

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Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.


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