Every session wraps up with winners and losers. This year, there’s no doubt that the people of Alabama were the biggest loser, but there were some stand-out wins and losses too.
Overall I was incredibly disappointed in this legislative session, mainly for the opportunities lost. On the other hand, there were some notable successes that need to be acknowledged.
Winners #1: Senator Tim Melson & Representative Mike Ball
“Pleasantly surprised!” There’s no other way to describe the feeling when the bill sponsors of the medical marijuana bill got it passed and signed by Governor Kay Ivey. After all the hours of irrational ranting and raving and mindless huffing and puffing (no pun intended) by those acting like allowing a small number of patients to have access to a limited amount of medicinal marijuana was going to lead to the fall of civilization, I was worried. The good guys won out, though. The very real, heartwarming stories of those who would benefit overcame the idea that the Pot Man has been sitting at home longingly considering getting high but just waiting for it to be available in a non-smokable, non-vape, non-flavored medicinal way.
Winner #2: The anti-gaming coalition
I debated putting the Porch Creek Indians on the losing list, but truly I think the bigger point is that this was a big win against big spending and a bad bill. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly who stopped the gaming bill. It was quite a group effort. If a finger has to be pointed, I’d join Senator Del Marsh in his assessment to say Speaker Mac McCutcheon can take credit for killing the bill with a shout-out to Rules Chairman Mike Jones for the assist. Of course, the Donald Trump Jr. tweet didn’t hurt either; kudos to whoever got that done.
House leadership was certainly as responsible as all the other gaming interests in the state, the religious/moral opponents (API, Eagle Forum & others), and the democrats all combined in killing the bill. While the democrats thought they’d negotiate their way into a jackpot of their own with a wishlist a mile long to come on board in the end, it was the fact the speaker left the bill off the agenda so long that ended up being the favor to those who wanted to see the current proposal dead. His actual reasons and efforts (or lack of efforts) are still a mystery, with hemming and hawing about not having the votes but not bringing anything to the floor and not taking it up while a day was wasted on vaccine passports is curious.
Winner #3: Wes Allen
Wes Allen has always been a strong and influential member. Using his time as a probate court judge to help his perspective as a house member has served him well, but with his ban on curbside voting passing just after he announced he was running for Secretary of State, he’s looking like he’s going to be the man to beat for that open seat.
Beyond the election bill Allen also passed HB 460 the Farm and Forest Products Tag Bill. AFLA describes that bill as a legislative victory. They summarized it saying, “The bill would lift limits on the purchase of F4 farm tags for larger trucks. It also would allow log trucks to purchase L tags and be exempt from the International Registration Plan. Currently, forest product haulers over 42,000 pounds must carry a commercial license plate. Existing rules put Alabama farmers and loggers at a competitive disadvantage with their counterparts in neighboring states.”
Allen covering his basics with a lot of his priorities over the year showing his conservative and business friendly bona fides.
Winner #4: Female athletes
In what should be considered a win for common sense, feminists, and girls/women everywhere, the legislature secured in statute the current guidelines being used by the Alabama High School Athletic Association (Bylaws: Section 6, Page 48).
The irony of this is media outlet after media out, and activists decried the protection as unnecessary because it would affect very few people while in the same breath saying that a ban on puberty blockers and hormone treatments (aimed to protect those this would potentially impact) would affect hundreds if not a thousand school-age kids. Which is it?
This bill isn’t about hate or bigotry; it’s about fairness. Here’s a column I wrote explaining my perspective when Representative Chris Pringle first introduced the bill.
– 71% of voters back school choice. This is the highest level of support ever recorded from major AFC national polling with a sample size above 800 voters.
– 65% support parents having access to a portion of per-pupil funding to use for home, virtual, or private education if public schools don’t reopen full-time for in-person classes.
Yet, one of the “most conservative” states didn’t take up the issue. Killing me.
We also failed to address our wholly inadequate public records laws again. It’s like the conservative members of the legislature run on platforms that include small government, open records, and transparency, but then when the time comes to vote for those things, they’re like, “Meh!”
Let’s wait and watch when election time comes around again and see where they all fall with their promises.