My Christmas wish-list this year is pretty short, I got everything I wanted when, just before Thanksgiving I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy. But just in case the Alabama legislators who are checking out Alabama Today, here is my Christmas wish-list for legislation next year.
1) An ethics bill that actually holds legislators and elected officials accountable for, you know, actually being ethical.
2) An open government transparency bill with teeth. If you’re looking for somewhere to start look to Florida where their Sunshine laws dwarf the pitiful language that we have here in Alabama.
There are two parts to this: First, our elected officials should do everything reasonable to make information available. We live in a digital age. It almost takes work to be as evasive as some people in Montgomery are at keeping information from the people. An example of this is on appointments to boards and commissions. It would neither be difficult or unreasonable for those with appointment authority to all feed their appointments into a searchable website noting all of those appointed, when their term started, when it ends. At the very least they could put out releases on their appointments like the governor of Florida does, or just have a website listing them like the governor of Arizona does and the governor of Georgia does. The fact that Governor Ivey’s communications and appointments offices refuse to make this information available without a public records request (when Governor Robert Bentley would do so without hesitation) is both silly and infuriating. If you don’t have anything to hide stop making it seems as though you do.
Also, there needs to be specific language that includes repercussions for individuals within agencies and the elected officials who don’t produce records or intentionally hide them. Records should be produced in a timely manner or in their entirety. News organizations around the state have reported challenges to getting requests answered and have found that records have been withheld if/when they do come. That’s unacceptable.
3) Fiscal responsibility. We’re facing a legislative session where it’s expected that members will be raising gas taxes under the umbrella of infrastructure improvement. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Before lawmakers ask taxpayers for more money they need to make sure they’re spending the money they have appropriately. When looking at Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) there’s a lot of uncertainty that that is the case. Take for example the $80 plus million dollars on the Bridge to Nowhere or the potential for state funds to be used for the Northern Beltline, from there there’s questions about the way money is allocated after Governor Robert Bentley openly used transportation dollars as a way to extort members into supporting his tax raising agenda. Let’s shine some light on ALDOT and their practices before rushing off to give them more money. This introspective look needs to be done before taxes are raised not after.
4) Would it really be so hard, and so horrible, for people to be able to ship wine into our state? This is ridiculous. Get it together and free the grapes!
5) Alabama is one of the few states that does not regulate puppy mills. While I am the most staunch supporters of free markets and less government intrusion, there’s no doubt about it – something needs to be done about the absolutely horrid conditions animals in our state are being kept and found in. Don’t believe me, check out just a few examples of the animals that have been found in Alabama puppy mills just this year. We have to do better.
6) Last but certainly not least I want our regulators to get busy making our state more business-friendly by cutting the red tape and getting rid of excessive business licensing costs, crazy overreach and fees, and dated laws.