By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
Welcome to 2018, Alabama.
If any state should welcome the opportunity for a fresh start — a chance to sort of hit a reset button and regroup — it is this one.
Robert Bentley’s sext messages — the electronic equivalent of drinking a shot of hydrogen peroxide — are in the past. The worst campaign in U.S. political history — Roy Moore and his Political Panhandlers Bible Thumping Band — has mercifully been forced into temporary obscurity, with only the bilking of the gullible left.
Luther Strange. Mike Hubbard. Rebekah Mason. All of them left behind in 2017.
All is calm. All should be quiet.
But this is Alabama.
And by this time next week, we’ll be a day into the 2018 Legislative Session.
And what a session it promises to be.
This is an election year in Alabama, which means two things: that less than usual will be accomplished (a monumental feat for the country’s most underproductive State Legislature) and the pander level will be turned up to 11.
In fact, if you can organize a group of five or more people who agree on any topic — let’s say, that frog gigging should be the official Alabama water sport — you can most likely get an Alabama lawmaker to introduce the Frog Gigging Act of 2018 in an effort to prove that he/she is the representative you need in Montgomery.
And you can bet all of your money that God, guns, sex and takers will play prominent roles in the bills introduced this session, as the legislators scramble to get your attention and convince you that they’re walking the halls of the state house with a shotgun in one hand, a bible in the other, while talking to a Reagan-blessed economist.
This is not exactly a guess by me. I’ve taken a look at the prefiled bills.
Already on the docket: a re-up of a proposal to arm and train church security guards; a bill to repeal the code that allows public school teachers to remain on paid leave while they’re investigated for engaging in sexual acts with their students; and a bill that implements a work requirement on anyone who accepts “food stamps.”
Don’t those make you feel good?
Yeah, sure, a rational country might look at the continued instances of mentally unstable people with a documented history of violence stockpiling weapons and ammunition and then slaughtering innocent people and think, “You know, maybe we should strive towards implementing ironclad procedures to prevent those people from obtaining weapons.”
But that would be “anti-gun.” And, well, God forbid.
So, instead, we’re gonna arm and train Earl and Bubba and hope that they, while a verse into singing “Leaning On the Everlasting Arms,” can spot the bad guy with a gun and save the congregation.
And that stupid bill will probably pass this session, because Lynn Greer, R-Rogersville, trotted it out last year and there’s been another deadly church shooting since, and, well, it feels good to say that we’re arming good guys to chase bad guys, no matter how dumb and childish it really is.
Speaking of which, it is at least equally as stupid to attempt to remove a provision of law that requires more than mere allegations before a public school teacher can be chased from his or her job and its accompanying paycheck.
This one is Tripp Pittman’s idea, because everyone hates to see teachers who had sex with a student drag out an investigation for years, as they’re being paid all along. It feels good to say that we’re just going to stop doing that.
Unless, of course, the teacher is completely innocent — an outcome that occurs all the time. In such a case, you’ve just destroyed the reputation and finances of an innocent American.
Pittman wants to remove the section of legal code that applies to this particular offense and leave it up to the process outlined in the Students First Act passed by the Legislature in 2011. That act allows county superintendents and boards to suspend a teacher without pay for mere allegations, and it forbids the teacher from being able to stall a suspension without pay until the end of the investigation.
And here’s the height of hypocrisy: Pittman has long been one of the voices fighting the hardest against raising taxes, and he’s routinely voted to slash the budgets for education and the courts, both of which are the primary reasons it takes months and years to work these cases through our criminal justice system.
Again, reasonable people might think the solution is to properly fund the courts. But around here, it’s to just cut individual rights to due process and ignore the principle of innocent until proven guilty.
Speaking of ignoring things.
I sat in a committee hearing last year and listened as lawmakers calmly and clearly explained to Rep. Tommy Hanes why a work requirement for “food stamps” (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) was both counterproductive and unnecessary.
There are very few, if any, single, able-bodied people in Alabama receiving SNAP benefits. Those who are already meet a work/training requirement. Imposing additional requirements or limiting the waiver options only serves to hurt people for no good reason.
Hanes seemed to understand how he was misguided after that meeting.
But the urge to pander is strong. And it feels sooooo good to pretend that we’re going to make those welfare mooches get real jobs, even if what we’re doing actually accomplishes the opposite.
Welcome 2018, the year of Pander-Palooza.