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Opinion | On controversial legislation, there are a couple of Republicans to trust

Sen. Dick Brewbaker speaks at a committee meeting on Feb. 21, 2018, Samuel Mattison/APR

From an ethical point of view, the Alabama Republican Party has endured a tough run the last few years.

There have been at least eight arrests of party leaders and high-ranking ALGOP lawmakers. The Speaker of the House, the governor, the majority leader — they all went down for ethics crimes primarily related to using their offices for personal gain. The Republicans have also angered many Alabamians through their continued efforts to roll back ethics laws that they can’t manage to follow and for a gas tax scheme that demonstrated the worst of politics.

In any state with a semi-functioning Democratic Party and a majority of voting citizens who weren’t moved by someone shouting “libtard,” such things would cause election problems. Alabama, unfortunately, is not one of those states.

But still, in poll after poll, the disdain of the public for the way Alabama lawmakers have behaved is obvious.

Except for a couple of guys.

There are, even for those of us in the more progressive camp, a handful of Republican lawmakers who we trust. We don’t necessarily agree with them, but we generally don’t believe them to be crazy, money-grubbing dirtbags who would gas puppies if there was a dollar extra to be made. And they generally negotiate and compromise in good faith and with reasonable points of view.

Two such men are retired state Sen. Dick Brewbaker and current Sen. Cam Ward.

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You’ll probably remember Brewbaker and Ward from the fight two years ago to get a bill passed that would provide full coverage for autism treatment that included therapy. Brewbaker and Ward, among a group of Republicans, sided with the desperate parents and against the big money of Blue Cross/Blue Shield and the Business Council of Alabama, which was under the leadership of Billy Canary at the time.

Ward also has been front and center on Alabama’s attempts to clean up its awful prisons, and last week challenged how Christians in the state could continue to turn a blind eye to atrocious conditions.

Brewbaker, since his retirement, has been an outspoken critic of efforts to rewrite state ethics laws and of the recent gas tax bill. He was so much of a critic, he’s been called by GOP leadership and asked to ease back on his criticisms.

So, what I’m saying here is that you can typically count on Ward and Brewbaker to give an honest, common-sense opinion on controversial bills, and usually their opinions aren’t far off from the opinions held by average Alabama voters.

Which is why you might want to listen to them when it comes to a bill sponsored by Sen. Greg Albritton and pushed by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh that would legalize a “paper lottery” in Alabama and protect the Poarch Creek Indians’ gaming monopoly.

As Marsh and Albritton were attempting to paint a rosy picture of agreement among senators on Albritton’s “simpler” lottery bill, Ward destroyed the idea. He told reporters that he expected a “big debate” and promised deep divisions within the party over the bills.

Brewbaker was more blunt.

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In a tweet on Friday, he said Albritton’s bill would “give us the worst of both possible worlds.”

This rabbit hole is getting deeper every minute,” Brewbaker wrote about Albritton’s bill. “While I always have and still do oppose a state lottery. This bill gives us the worst of both worlds- a non competitive ‘paper lottery’ and hands PCI a tax free windfall on all the profitable lottery games. Wake up!!!”

In a later tweet about the support Marsh and Albritton have given to a bill that clearly favors the Poarch Creeks and undermines the state, Brewbaker wrote, “The oligarchs are firmly in control and aren’t even bothering to hide it anymore.”

He’s right.

And more importantly, he’s speaking to and for a lot of Alabama voters — a lot of Alabama GOP voters. Folks who are tired of watching their lawmakers get carted off to jail and who are tired of being sold out again and again as the people they elect go to Montgomery and line their own pockets.

Ward and Brewbaker don’t usually miss on public sentiment.

And that’s particularly true in this case.

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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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