Legislative process is untrustworthyPublished 10:16pm Monday, June 17, 2013
It is no secret that things in Montgomery have become much more partisan and tense since 2010. Some of that you would expect. After all, politics is a contact sport. But over the past three years, our legislature – under the leadership of the Republican Supermajority – has embraced dishonest tactics to sneak radical legislation in through the back door.
This strategy first appeared over legislative pay raises. Republicans campaigned in 2010 on a platform of repealing that pay raise. Yet, when I offered an amendment that would have repealed the pay raise and returned legislative pay to the rate it was before 2007, not a single Republican voted in favor of the repeal.
Instead, Republican passed legislation that would tie legislators’ pay to the median household income. Let’s put aside, for the moment, the fact that Republicans think part-time legislators should make the same amount as an entire household working two or even three fulltime jobs. This new law will actually give many legislators a pay raise without legislators or the public getting to vote on it.
The first way it does this is through travel reimbursements. Before, legislators made $10 a day plus reimbursements for their travel and related expenses. Now, legislators make an income comparable to the average family of four plus reimbursements for travel. This means that legislators who travel further will make more money than they did under the previous pay structure.
The second way this law gives legislators a pay raise is through natural economic growth. As the state’s economy grows and the median household income increases, legislators will receive an automatic pay increase without ever having to vote on it or inform the taxpayers of the increase. So what was sold to the taxpayers as a pay cut for legislators is actually a backdoor pay increase for legislators.
Another instance of Republicans sneaking legislation through the back door happened a few months ago when they rammed the Accountability Act through the Legislature by switching the bill after it had already passed the House and Senate.
Republican legislative leaders and their staff have publicly made comments about how they could not have passed the Accountability Act if they had tried to use the proper legislative process. Gov. Bentley and the Republican leaders in the Legislature intentionally kept the public and their own education experts and advisors in the dark, causing the state school superintendent, Dr. Tommy Bice, and the Association of School Boards to immediately pull back their support of the bill.
During their press conference, Gov. Bentley said he kept his education advisors in the dark because, in his own words, “I think they did oppose it…I think the conscious decision to not include them was to pass the bill.” This backdoor approach helped those legislators received personal tax credits.
What concerns me now is not just the radical legislation that was passed through the back door during the past three years, but also the legislation that might be passed through that back door in the next legislative session.
In 2011, Republicans tried to pass the transvaginal ultrasound bill that would have forced women whose pregnancies ended early (either through miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, or abortion) to undergo an invasive medical procedure against their will.
The transvaginal ultrasound legislation was so widely rejected by the public that Republicans in Montgomery tried to water it down and ultimately abandoned it altogether for that legislative session. But a few weeks ago, Republicans announced they are having Wisconsin governor Scott Walker as their keynote speaker at a Republican fundraiser coming up in August.When Republican leaders announced Walker was coming, they praised him as having “Alabama values and not ashamed of it.” One of Scott Walker’s values happens to be support of transvaginal ultrasounds.
Last week, Walker announced that he intends to sign into law in Wisconsin legislation that would require women seeking abortions to choose between a traditional ultrasound or a transvaginal ultrasound. As a Christian, I firmly believe in the sanctity of life, and that is why I have always been opposed to abortion.
However, these continuous efforts by the Republicans are outrageous. What Republican Supermajority continues to attempt to do is a vast overreach of the government’s power and a violation of women’s 4th Amendment rights. I’m afraid that forcing women to choose between the two options is just a backdoor way to sneak transvaginal ultrasounds into law.
Now, along with the school vouchers and legislative pay raise being pushed through the back door, they are now embracing the governor who is pushing for backdoor transvaginal ultrasounds.
The people of Alabama deserve to have a government we can trust. But as long as legislative leaders continue to force bad legislation through the back door, the people will never be able to trust their state government.