In Alabama, Legislature-bashing is darn near a spectator sport. It’s so widely accepted that state lawmakers are just as apt, if not more so, to make boneheaded decisions as they are to support defensible policy that no one’s jaw hits the table when the Legislature goes haywire.
As Alabamians, we expect the worst from Montgomery.
Thus, count us as surprised — shocked, really — that the underwhelming Alabama Legislature did not make the top 10 list of the worst state legislatures of the year, as determined this week by Mother Jones magazine.
Turns out, Alabama’s legislative craziness was restricted just enough for that magazine to keep our august body off this list. Recall that the Republican-controlled Legislature took a few interesting steps in 2012. It banned texting while driving. It repealed lawmakers’ controversial 2007 pay raises. Its crusade to trim state government to the size of a peanut rolled on. And it made a few modest changes to the state’s illegal-immigration law. (More on that later.)
Guess those actions, and others, were good enough for Mother Jones.
Nevertheless, we’d like to remind the magazine’s editors that this is the same Legislature that approved balanced state budgets that weren’t balanced when they were voted on. Ah, yes, the Legislature passed a budget that would cover the state’s expenses only if voters OK’d raiding a state trust fund months later, which they did in September.
In some states, that would be a sign of cowardly politicians pushing off their elected duty on the citizenry.
In this state, that passes for leadership.
Apparently, some of the worst parts of the Legislature’s recent past didn’t haunt it in this 2012 evaluation. The aforementioned immigration law — a mean-spirited, xenophobic law worthy of repeal — was passed the year before. The state’s continual refusal to embrace worthwhile tax reform is a sign of an endemic failure, not a 2012-only misstep. And crafting a new state Constitution, still a high priority, isn’t going to happen now that lawmakers have decided on a slower, bit-by-bit approach.
In other words, Alabama wasn’t weird enough in 2012.
It wasn’t Tennessee, which, the magazine wrote, “passed a bill in April (later vetoed) to provide cover for teachers who question evolution and climate change in their classrooms, along with legislation that classified miscarriages as murder, and a bill cracking down on saggy pants.”
It wasn’t Oklahoma, where, Mother Jones wrote, “(A)n anti-gay (among other things) pastor was invited to address the Legislature, and promptly called 9/11 a warning from God and bashed the notion that ‘kids across the nation are taught they are advanced mutations of a baboon.’”
And it wasn’t New Hampshire, where “after the state passed a bill allowing lawmakers to carry concealed weapons in the statehouse, GOP state Rep. Kyle Tasker dropped his gun on the floor of the Capitol during a hearing of the — not making this up — public safety committee,” the magazine said.
Lampooning the Alabama Legislature is too easy; the details are too damning. But for once, it seems our lawmakers weren’t crazy enough. Go figure.