The new constituency: Amendment 1 result puts Bentley, lawmakers in tough situation
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Sep 21, 2012 | 2867 views |  0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“Hallelujah,” said Henry Mabry, executive secretary of the Alabama Education Association, “Alabama voters chose to take care of God’s children.”

That same sentiment was voiced by many who supported the constitutional amendment that allowed the state to shift money from a state trust fund to the General Fund and thus meet its obligations to programs like Medicaid and the state prison system.

However, there are reasons to suspect that it was not concern for “the least of these” that gave the amendment a 2-1 victory over those who opposed it.

Although those who proposed the amendment warned of closed rural hospitals and elderly patients being turned out of nursing homes, it was not until the governor warned of massive layoffs and supporters cranked out the “Keep Alabama Working” strategy that Alabamians whose jobs depended on passage got behind the measure. They turned out in force, along with their families and friends. Add to these the votes of the many who depend on these programs, and the result was a much bigger margin of victory than many predicted.

It also created a constituency that Gov. Robert Bentley and the Republican leadership in the Alabama Legislature never expected to have on their side.

And it looks like Republicans will need this new constituency’s support in the future, because opposing the measure were

some who have been the GOP’s most loyal allies in the past. Tea Party supporters were vocal in their opposition to raiding the trust fund, as were prominent Republicans like Scott Beason and Bradley Byrne. Moreover, two large, influential counties that have long been Republican strongholds — Baldwin and Madison — voted against the amendment.

A cynic might interpret this as an example of those with a personal interest in the plan voting for it and those who could care less about the poor and the elderly voting against it, and the cynic might be right.

However, whatever the reason for this split, the governor and those who came up with this scheme will have to be careful in the coming months. Those who opposed them will have to be mollified with deep cuts in state agencies as well as the promised payback to the trust fund. However, those who supported the amendment are not going to be happy if the governor and his allies begin eliminating the very jobs and programs that the transfer was designed to save.

Will the governor and GOP legislators abandon this new constituency to make peace with the old? Or will the Republicans continue to protect the jobs and services that were saved by this amendment?

It is a dilemma of their own making.
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