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Opinion | An absolutely awful Legislature

Joey Kennedy

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So Alabama is really going to do it. We’re going to agree to spend no telling how much of our scarce financial resources to argue a clearly unconstitutional proposal to all but outright ban abortion in the state is somehow legal.

It is not, and shame on the Legislature to make the move.

For the record, the financial boondoggle is not a done deal yet. But it’s much closer, and with the Senate leadership on board, it’s pretty near a sure thing. The bill, HB314, will go to the Senate. The House approved it 74-3 after most Democrats walked out of the chamber. That vote alone shows how little influence Democrats have in the State House. It doesn’t even matter whether they show up.

Sponsored by, of all people, a woman – Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur – the bill has only one goal, and it’s not to ban abortion. The law of the land allows abortion because it is a private decision between a woman, her doctor and her God, and the Supreme Court has upheld that right in numerous previous challenges.

But Collins and her cohorts know a hot-button issue when they see it. So they’re risking perhaps a couple million or more Alabama taxpayer dollars in the hopes the U.S. Supreme Court will take up the issue once the lower courts kick it to the curb, as they have other restrictive abortion measures passed in other states.

Instead of letting those other states fight the battle, Collins wants Alabama to be the tip of the spear on this issue, so the House passed the most restrictive abortion measure in the nation thus far: It literally makes doctors felons if they perform an abortion for any reason other than saving the life of the mother. Collins’ fatally flawed bill is crippled even further because it lets the crime’s co-conspirator, the woman deciding to have the abortion, off the hook.

There’s so much wrong with this bill, you know it just had to be written by an Alabama lawmaker.

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And here’s the big risk: After all the losing legal fights in the lower federal courts so the bill can get to the Supreme Court, the High Court might simply refuse to accept the challenge, leaving the lower court rulings in effect.

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Collins’ bill is so awfully flawed, the Supreme Court might simply turn its back on it.

Yet, the House, and perhaps (likely?) the Senate, are going along with the costly charade. Gov. Kay Ivey could veto the bill — and absolutely should if this reaches her desk — but probably won’t. Backbone isn’t one of her known characteristics.

Sure, Ivey fronted a gas tax hike for infrastructure, but she’s refused to push for a Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act to save rural hospitals, provide health insurance to hundreds of thousands of her constituents, and create an even better economy across the state. She just doesn’t have the nerve. (But then, Ivey didn’t have the nerve to vote against child predator and Republican Roy Moore in his race against U.S. Sen Doug Jones, either.)

Bad decisions like the abortion bill are actually a feature of the Alabama Legislature, especially under these Trump-loving Republicans:

  • As my colleague Josh Moon pointed out Wednesday, a lottery bill is making its way through the Legislature. A lottery makes sense because a lottery can fund some important needs. However, Moon notes, this is an awful lottery bill because lawmakers “want this lottery bill to offset the costs of new prisons.” It’s also a giveaway to the Indian casinos, which pay no taxes to the state.
  • There are those in the Legislature who wanted to strip the state’s ethics law and ethics commission of most of their authority and powers. Fortunately, a Senate Judicial Committee, chaired by Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, tabled that idea, but don’t think it can’t resurface from another route.
  • A plan to let just about any person conceal carry a firearm was in play until just recently, when it was also tabled in committee. But again, a bill isn’t dead until it’s dead.
  • A huge hike in the state fuel tax has passed, but not a dime of it can go to public transportation, a real infrastructure need in most of Alabama’s urban centers, but especially in Birmingham.
  • An effort by the city of Birmingham to raise the minimum wage was blocked by the Legislature, and now state Attorney General Steve Marshall is in court defending the state in a suit by Birmingham to overturn the law. Alabama doesn’t want the feds interfering in state business, but it sure doesn’t mind interfering in local business. The hypocrisy is astounding. Except, as the record of this Legislature shows, it really isn’t. It’s SOP. Or maybe FUBAR.

So that unconstitutional, awful abortion bill moves forward. Toward a huge wall even Donald Trump would be proud of.

To what end? Certainly it won’t be a reason Roe v. Wade is overturned, if it ever is. There are other laws around the country — still awful but better written — the Supreme Court likely will use if it has a mind to do that. And, despite the court’s makeup, that’s a big IF.

The Alabama law will do nothing but cost us a lot of money and bring us yet more ridicule. Lawmakers are so used to that, they probably think it’s a good thing.

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]

 

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