By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
Here we go again.
The daycare bill is back in the Alabama Legislature, and the hand-wringing has commenced.
Only, most of it has occurred behind closed doors, away from the watchful eyes of the public and the media, back in the crevices of the State House, where the real business gets handled.
That’s where state Rep. Pebblin Warren’s bill, which seeks to accomplish the apparently monumental change of forcing church-affiliated daycares to adhere to the same basic rules and standards as the other daycares, had to travel first — to the backroom.
So it could be fixed.
According to multiple sources, Republican leadership in the House and Senate told Warren and the supporters of the daycare bill that they wouldn’t allow it on the floor unless they first worked with the small band of special interest groups employed by wealthy churches who were opposed to the bill.
See, this is supposed to be a drama-free session of the Legislature, what with elections coming up later this year.
So, the GOP leadership wanted a worry-free daycare bill instead. They wanted to work it all out in a backroom and bring a bill to the floor that would pass unanimously, so everyone could pat themselves on the back and pretend that they were really concerned about child welfare.
Of course, you might be thinking that a bill which simply imposes regulations that would do things like require criminal background checks and force daycares to provide parents with immunization information would be exactly the sort of no-brainer, worry-free bill they were looking for.
But if so, you don’t understand how this game works in Montgomery.
In this game, doing what’s right always, always, always comes second to money. Which is where shysters like Eric Johnston, Joe Godfrey and Roy Moore’s Foundation for Moral Law come in.
They are the frontmen for the political groups that wealthy churches use to threaten lawmakers over potentially costly legislation, such as a bill that might finally require you to adequately staff your daycare.
And so, as they did Tuesday, this group of conmen come rolling into town and spread snake oil far and wide. Telling people that the regulations will interfere in some imagined way on religious teachings (the bill specifically forbids it), or that it will force immunizations on parents (nope), or that it’s the first step down the slippery slope (blah, blah, blah).
One of these guys — John Eidsmoe, with Moore’s group — actually said that the daycares are accountable to God and parents.
I guess God isn’t big on background checks, since a simple one at a Mobile daycare last year would have saved the life of a 5-year-old.
But see, this is how it works. The primary concern in that State House isn’t for the 5-year-old who died, or the kid in Muscle Shoals who was burned by a cigarette, or the kids who died in a fire at an unregulated daycare several years ago.
It’s about money.
The churches don’t want to lose their money.
The shysters will say anything for their money.
The lawmakers don’t want to lose their campaign donations.
And ‘round and ‘round we go.
Which is how a bill that has the support of more than 90 percent of the voters in this state (the other 10 percent probably didn’t understand the question) is somehow controversial and complicated.
Somehow, that bill failed to pass last session. Somehow, that bill is so controversial — despite passing the House unanimously last year — that it required a pre-session sitdown between Warren and the Shyster Squad.
And somehow, in one final act of disgrace in this pathetic tale, after the meeting, that bill required a rewrite to exclude church-run daycares that don’t receive federal or state funds.
And it still might not pass.
Because in this gerrymandered state, most Republican lawmakers have to worry only about their primary opponent. Which means they only have to worry about someone who can out-pander to the church lobby.
Which is how a say-anything-for-money conman like Johnston — a man who admitted a few years ago to using his nonprofit as a pass-thru for money from Bob Riley to Mike Hubbard — is directing policy and helping write legislation.
And dead children are barely moving the needle.