Steve Flowers’ Weekly Column - May 8th, 2014
Posted by: wthompson
Date: May 08 2014 5:10 PM
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s premier political journalist and commentator. He is also considered by many to be the preeminent authority on Alabama politics and Alabama political history. His May 9th, 2014 column is below:
The 2014 Regular Legislative Session, which ended last month, was the last of the quadrennium. It ended on the same note it began on four years ago. This group of super majority Republican legislators has placed an indelible conservative stamp on Alabama state government.
There has been no benchmark right wing social issue that has failed to be addressed. They began in the first year with what they proclaimed was the most pervasive anti illegal immigrant legislation in the country. It was quickly cast aside in a cursory federal court opinion as unconstitutional.
Then came a far-reaching pro gun bill that was designed for the 1890’s Wild West. This year they passed an anti abortion bill, which the sponsors as well as any sixth grade civics student, should know is unconstitutional. It is not even close to being in line with Roe v. Wade.
These theatrical panderings play well to Alabama’s conservative electorate. During the 1960’s Alabama legislators spent entire sessions passing meaningless resolutions espousing anti-segregation edicts. This group has taken a page from that era with their posturing. For example, they passed legislation stating Alabama does not have to comply with Obama Care. I am sure that will have a lot of influence in deterring a piece of federal legislation. The last time I checked we were still a part of the United States so that same sixth grade civics student can instruct the legislature of Alabama that federal law supersedes state law.
Well at least it makes for good politics. George Wallace was the master of it. These guys are novices. Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door by George. We want to send them a message.
The problem with spending the entire legislative session passing popular but blatantly unconstitutional measures is that it cost money. At least George Wallace paid to send Washington a message. He was a progressive at heart. The state’s economy was not in the doldrums and Wallace passed tax increase measures to make up any shortfalls.
To the contrary, this group is determined to not raise any new revenue. You have got to give them credit. They are consistent. They are as conservative on fiscal actions as they are on social issues.
The State General Fund is in dire straits. That is the fund that has to pay to defend these measures. The General Fund has had no new money since 1983 when George Wallace was in the first year of his last term. Things like cars, gas, desks and computers have gone up a lot in 30 years yet the General Fund has had no increase in revenue.
This fund, unlike the Education Trust Fund, cannot grow itself out of its dilemma because all of the growth taxes, which are primarily sales and income taxes, are earmarked for the Education Budget. Medicaid and prison costs have grown exponentially. These two money-eating monsters have driven the poor General Fund to the wall.
Essentially, the Legislature has balanced both the State General Fund and Education Trust Fund on the backs of state employees and teachers during this quadrennium. Both of these groups have taken pay cuts over this four-year period. They were required to pay more for their health insurance and retirement benefits in the first year and have not had any pay increase to offset this loss in take home pay.
There is one note of hypocrisy on the part of legislators when they say they are different than their Democratic predecessor majorities. They continue to put pork in the Education Budget to dole out in their districts just like they ridiculed the Democrats for doing in prior years.
Some of these state senators are going to find out that some of these schoolteachers are not going to forget come Election Day. There are also a lot of retired schoolteachers who have not gotten a cost of living raise in four years either. These folks vote. We will see how mad they are in a few weeks.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 72 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the state legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us. Steve can also be found on Facebook and Twitter (@SteveFlowersAL).