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Opinion | 2022 legislative session: rational or irrational?

A gander at pre-filed bills shows some in the Legislature reject the principles embraced by the nation’s founders.

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When lawmakers convene in Montgomery for the last session of the Legislative quadrennium, will there be a rational advancement of government policies or a prevalence of irrational solutions to nonexistent problems?

Government should restrain the emotional impulse of the extremes while working toward a more perfect union for all. Public policy should reflect more than immediate trends, fears or greed of the few or the many. Lawmakers should exercise their power in a limited way to create a system in which every citizen can prosper in freedom and peace.

The Alabama Legislature has only one constitutionally mandated responsibility — to pass the state’s budgets.

Unfortunately for citizens, politicos like unimaginative managers, confuse activity with accomplishment.

No self-promoting politician will miss an opportunity to pass legislation, retool the system, add pet projects and hand out lobbyist favors. You see, politicians are elected to do things. For some, it doesn’t matter what they do as long as they can appear busy.

This year the biggest item on the agenda is spending over $1.5 billion in funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. Now, suppose intellectual consistency was an issue for lawmakers. In that case, Republicans who dominate the state Legislature should return the money to the federal government because not a single member of the GOP in Washington voted to allocate the funds to the states in the first place. But these minor inconsistencies in political philosophy are trivial when stacked against an enormous pile of cash.

ARPA funds are meant to be used for COVID-19 related matters, but watch where the money flows. It will look like a convoy of Brinks trunks hauling Monopoly money to an amusement park.

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Okay, some serious women and men want to allocate the funds wisely, but wisdom is no match for “free money” that will be paid back by the next two or three generations.

A gander at pre-filed bills shows that at least some in the state Legislature reject the Enlightenment principles embraced by the nation’s founders and seek a rapprochement with the Middle Ages.

Banning lots and lots of stuff, real and imagined, is central to the “cut and paste” agenda for many lawmakers.

Even though Critical Race Theory is not taught in Alabama schools, banning it from Alabama classrooms is high on the chopping block.

Critical Race Theory is a 40-year-old academic concept that sees race as embedded in the legal systems and policies.

The Alabama 1901 Constitution is a prime example of how race and racism are present in the legal systems and policies of the state. 

Convention president John B. Knox made it clear the primary objective of the constitutional convention that produced the 1901 Constitution was “to establish white supremacy in this State.”

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An advertisement for the constitution reads, “White Supremacy! Honest Elections! and the New Constitution! One and Inseparable!” according to “Alabama: The History of a Deep South State: Bicentennial Edition” by William Warren Rogers, Robert David Ward, Leah Rawls Atkins, and Flynt.

Racist? Systemic racism? 

During the 2021 session, lawmakers approved a measure to remove racist language from the state’s Constitution. This year, lawmakers will finalize a draft to accomplish those ends and place it before voters in November to approve or reject.

Again, lawmakers themselves recognized a portion of the case made by CRT but simultaneously wanted to ban something nonexistent in state schools.

Another biggie is so-called “constitutional carry,” a fancy way of saying any lunatic can carry a concealed weapon without a permit.

Permitless carry, as it is known, relies on the Second Amendment right to bear arms as if it is an unfettered right.

What about Constitutional freedom of speech? Wait, are there limits on what individuals can say? You bet.

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How about Constitutional protests? The First Amendment says that citizens have a right to peacefully assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances. Some state lawmakers want to make it more challenging to carry out the right to protest. What’s happening here? 

Somehow carrying a gun — I own a few — has become for some the most fundamental right in the Constitution. And since it is an election year, expect granny to be packing an AR-15 under her house dress as she strolls the aisles of the local Dollar store.

Legislating should be serious business, but it’s become little more than pleasing a handful of base-voters who see themselves as the last visage of freedom-loving Alabamians.

Let’s be honest: if the fringe gains control over state government, then all Alabamians can kiss their freedom’s behind.

Our lawmakers can pass legislation that will improve the real lives of real people. Many times that means doing little more than doing no harm.

Laws and policies must never be instruments of the hysterical whims of the moment but grounded in a bedrock of principles old and tried while looking to address present needs with data-driven innovation.

Let’s hope that a rational advancement of government policies rules the day. But I’m not so sure it will.

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Written By

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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