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Opinion | The state of this state is, as usual, weird

Gov. Kay Ivey delivers the 2019 state of the state address before a joint session of the Alabama Legislature in the Old House Chambers of the Alabama State Capitol on March 5, 2019. (Chip Brownlee/APR)

It feels wrong to call it a “special” session.

Maybe “other” session. Or “equally idiotic” session.

But whatever you call it, there will be a special session inside a regular session in Alabama this year to hash out the dire situation with Alabama’s … um, roads.

Yes, you read that correctly.

The roads and bridges of Alabama — which have been so not dire for the past several years that we take $63 million from the transportation budget each year and divert it to courts  — have suddenly become so awful that the governor has declared a special legislative session to raise taxes to fix them.

If that seems odd, wait a second.

In announcing the plan to fix the roads — her Rebuild Alabama Infrastructure Plan — Ivey essentially admitted the state was at fault in thousands of automobile accidents over the last few years.

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While noting the state’s poor road conditions and acknowledging that state leaders have ignored the poor conditions for years, Ivey said, “From 2015 to 2017, Alabama saw nearly 3,000 traffic fatalities. One-third of those were due to deficiencies in our roadways.”

And if that seems more odd, let me tell you one more.

There was confusion most of the afternoon between the governor’s office and lawmakers over how to go about getting to this turducken session.

Ivey was originally set to announce the special session during her State of the State speech. But that fell through when lawmakers, apparently unaware of her planned announcement, recessed from both houses instead of adjourning until a later date. In order to call the special session, parliamentary rules require a break in legislative days — which is achieved only through adjournment to a later date — at which point the special session can be called.

House and Senate leadership didn’t want to upstage the governor by oddly adjourning until March 19, thus giving away her special session announcement.

This apparently caught Ivey’s office off-guard, and her speech had to be altered. The final version ended up being a weird threat by Ivey to call lawmakers into a special session — which everyone knew was coming.

One day. We’ve been in session one damn day.

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Of course, this all followed several days of scrambling for votes to see if there was any need to call a special session at all. Because as we stand currently, Ivey does not have the votes to pass her 10-cent increase in the gas tax.

Pulling against her are a whole bunch of Republicans, who are being bolstered by really loud, mostly obnoxious opponents around the state. Mercy, are they ever obnoxious with their cries against more taxes.

I’m not a supporter of this gas tax in its current form, nor am I for a phony crisis to force through a bad bill to fix our roads and bridges, but our roads and bridges absolutely need to be fixed. If we left upkeep and innovation to the anti-tax Republicans in this state, we’d still be driving dirt roads and just wondering what was on the other side of the rivers.

That said, their resistance sets up an interesting situation for the Republicans who took money from roadbuilders and those who hope to launch U.S. Senate campaigns in the near future: How willing are they to work with Alabama Democrats?

Beaten, bloodied and left for dead last November, suddenly the Alabama Dems are in a position of power. And Tuesday evening, via a response to Ivey’s State of the State Address, the Democrats put their price on the table.

Medicaid expansion, gambling and medical marijuana legalization.

Any of the three would be a hefty price in this state. But here’s the weird thing: All three are insanely more popular, even among Republicans, than the gas tax.

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And isn’t that just the perfect Alabama conundrum: To do this unpopular thing that they really want to do, Republicans might have to do these insanely popular things that for no discernable reason they don’t want to do.

And that, kids, is the actual state of this state.


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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