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December 20, 2014

Legislators should fix Alabama first

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Posted: Tuesday, January 21, 2014 9:15 pm

With more than 500 bills already introduced in this session of the Alabama Legislature and dozens of resolutions, there’s sure to be plenty of action on Goat Hill and with that many proposals being made, there will certainly be plenty of them to love, plenty to hate, and more than enough to make you scratch your head and wonder what they were thinking.

There are already a handful that strongly suggest home rule—at least some sort of limited home rule—might even be a good idea. There’s a bill dealing with copying fees in the Elmore County probate judge’s office. There’s one that would allow Randolph County to pass a noise ordinance so residents can have some peace and quiet. Unless they live near the industrial park, anyway. There’s one to allow the Dale County Commission to levy a lodging tax, and one that deals with expense reimbursements for the Conecuh County coroner. Those issues are important in their parts of the state, just like the one that would allow Lincoln residents to vote on whether to allow Sunday alcohol sales, but they do tend to clog up the machinery in Montgomery.

One bill that got our attention is one that would put the state permanently on Daylight Savings Time. That would eliminate the need to search for instruction for all of our clocks and digital devices every time we spring forward or fall backward. But so far, only one House member, Rep. Greg Wren, has his name attached to it, and it will probably die a lonely death in some committee chairman’s file, as most bills do.

But at least the county micromanagement bills and the quit-messing-with-my-clocks bills are relevant to the state of Alabama.

Some of the bills proposed seem to have more to do with the federal government than with the Heart of Dixie.

Take the “Null and Void” bill, for example. Rep. Barry Moore has introduced a bill that would render null and void certain provisions of ObamaCare and prevent state employees and agencies from implementing portions of the law that he believes exceed the powers granted to the federal government in the U.S. Constitution. Interesting, but we fail to see how it helps the state.

Another bill is asking our state legislature to get involved in an initiative to pass a balanced budget amendment for the federal government.

Top of our top-ranking State Senators, Trip Pittman and Arthur Orr, were among about 100 legislators from 32 states who gathered in Mount Vernon, Va., last month to map out a plan for passing a Constitutional Amendment to do just that, and they already have dozens of co-sponsors.

They’re banking on Article V of the Constitution which provides frameworks for amending the constitution, and one method is a Convention of States. If two thirds of the states pass a proposal and the convention, and three fourths of the states ratify it, it becomes an amendment. Of our current 27 amendments, only one has been passed that way, the 21st, which repealed Prohibition. That was such a contentious issue at the time Congress didn’t want to take the political heat over it, and called for the convention to get the job done.

States can’t call for the convention on their own. Congress has to call for the states to gather for the purpose, according to Article V, and it seems unlikely Congress would ask the states to create a Balanced Budget Amendment.

It seems more likely that state Republicans are campaigning on national issues because this is an election year and they know pushing the right buttons on national issues will get an emotional response quicker than discussing line items in next year’s General Fund budgets.

Bills and campaign material calling for a Balanced Budget Amendment and attacking ObamaCare are tactics being used to try to push our supermajority Republican legislature farther to the right. By using national issues, the state GOP hopes to purge the legislature of members with more moderate views.

We appreciate the concern for national issues—they do affect us all—but we would rather see state office-holders working to improve the quality of life for the people of Alabama than trying to fix Washington.

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