Melton Reflecting on House’s ‘trying’ past session

Published 8:50 pm Saturday, July 7, 2012

State Rep. Darrio Melton called the Alabama Legislature’s most recent session “trying” because almost everything that came up for debate on the House floor was controversial.

“Everything is controversial over there,” Melton said of the statehouse. “I’m hopeful, though. I see there’s a lot of fighting going on internally with the Republican party, and hopefully we’ll have some people who are willing to work across the House to help move Alabama forward.”

Melton said one of the more popular topics on the House floor centered on creating jobs for Alabamians.

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“My colleagues, when they ran in 2010, the idea was we’re going to create jobs,” Melton said. “Bu they haven’t created one job yet; not one piece of legislation has created a single job. I think the people of Alabama deserve better than they. They don’t deserve lip service; they deserve someone who’s actually going to stand behind what they say.”

Another topic that garnered much attention from state legislators — and even national coverage — was the immigration bill, something Melton said he fought vehemently.

“For us to take such a strong stance against immigration, which is not a state matter, it’s more of a federal issue, I think it does not represent the best of who we are as Alabamians, and even as Americans,” Melton said. “Especially because our country is made up of immigrants from different parts of the world. I think the state may have overstepped its bounds.”

Melton also said he fought to defeat House Bills 159 and 160, which would have allowed the government to reach into the education trust fund and take out as much money as they wanted. The bill was important to defeat, Melton said, because it will keep money in the state’s educational system.

“I’m sure it’ll probably come back again, but [defeating the bills is] a big step in making sure that we’re able to keep what we have in education right now because, as we can see, there hasn’t been any moves to increase the revenue that’s going on inside of education,” he said.

Another bill Melton said he fought against was the prisoner’s right to work bill, which would have allowed companies to hire inmates from Alabama’s prisons.

“The reason that bill, to me, was not in the best interest of our state is that my colleagues were telling me they were willing to go out and recruit companies to hire prisoners while here in the Black Belt our unemployment rate is double digits,” Melton said. “Why can’t we have the same effort to hire people who are not incarcerated? The message I think they were sending was: in order to get a job in Alabama, you have to be incarcerated. I believe prisoners should have the opportunity to work and give back, but at the same time, what are we doing to make sure that we have employment throughout Alabama.”

Melton said he was pleased that legislators were able to kill the charter school’s bill, as well.

“The reason why I’m against charter schools as they are now is that you take a group of kids, pull them out of the system, but leave these other kids in the system, what does that say?” he said. “Only a few kids can benefit from this? I think if we relax some of the policies that we have now and allow public education system to do the same things we’re saying the charter schools can do, I think that could be an answer to free the superintendent’s hands and the principal’s hands and they can be more creative instead of saying we have these big companies coming in from out of state to run our school system. That’s ridiculous

“I think we need to put more in education because a lot of our kids don’t have the resources they need to be effective in the 21st Century. Until we fully fund public education in the state of Alabama, we don’t need to be looking at any other secondary competing school system.”

Melton also talked about redistricting, noting that lines have been drawn to ensure Democrats remain minorities in the legislature. He also referenced the Sept. 18 referendum about Medicaid, which, if passed, would allow money to be taken from the Alabama Trust Fund to help prop up Medicaid.

Despite the Republican supermajority in both the House and Senate, Melton said the fact that he and fellow Democrats in the House were able to defeat bills such as the charter school bill goes to show that, just because they’re the minority, it doesn’t mean they can’t do things.

“A lot of people don’t understand, being in the minority, it’s difficult to get your bills passed,” Melton said. “But you can fight against bad bills and keep them from passing. You take on a different role set.”