Wielding power in Montgomery
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Oct 08, 2012 | 2477 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With just barely enough members to field a baseball team, Alabama Democrats in the state Senate lost another of their own last week. Jerry Fielding, a first-term senator from Talladega, announced Thursday he was leaving the Democratic Party to join the Republicans.

Bonus points to Fielding for leaping right into the standard GOP trick of confusing adjectives and nouns. “I couldn’t sit by and watch the Democrat (sic) Party adopt such an extremely liberal agenda,” Fielding said in a press release. (Writer Hendrik Hertzberg calls it the “Ic Factor.”)

Counting Fielding, the Republicans hold 23 of 35 state Senate seats. Democrats control 11, though the figure might be reduced even further. The 35th seat is held by Harri Anne Smith, an independent from Slocomb who left the Republican Party in 2010.

In the Legislature’s other chamber, the House of Representatives, Republicans hold a similarly commanding advantage over their political rivals.

It’s smooth sailing for state Republicans except for one small detail — how to smartly use all that accumulated power.

A story from the framing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787 has Benjamin Franklin asking what sort of government was being created within Independence Hall. Franklin’s supposed response was, “A republic, madam — if you can keep it.”

In a twist on Franklin’s words, Statehouse Republicans in Alabama have a super-majority — if they can apply it for good.

That’s too infrequently been the case since the great Republican sweep of 2010. After a promising upgrade of state ethics guidelines for public officials, the signature victories have been sparse.

A deeply flawed immigration law delivered far more bad publicity than it has worthwhile public-policy outcomes.

A voter-ID law scheduled to take effect in 2014 is a solution to a nonexistent problem; that is unless lawmakers consider elderly and poor Alabamians voting without unnecessary impediments a problem.

Lawmakers took a pass on tough decisions when passing a 2013 General Fund, preferring to ask voters to lift $434 million from a state nest egg or shred our public safety and Medicaid budgets.

The 2012’s high-profile attempt at creating charter schools in Alabama collapsed in a confusing mess. The latest word from Montgomery is: Don’t expect another attempt at charters in the upcoming session. Disappointing.

In the state Republican lawmakers’ defense, wrangling 140 legislators in Alabama has never been an easy chore. House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, and Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, have their hands full shepherding politicians who typically always have at least one eye on the next election.

However, they must try. This state is facing big crises in need of smart policies. It’s time to put that super-majority to work for good government.
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