With the Alabama Legislature, a deliberative body scarred by its repetitive and self-inflicted sins, inaction can count as victory. Alabamians often win when legislators fail. This is one of those times.
Two measures making their way through the Statehouse this spring have defied all logic, and the fingerprints of state Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, are on both. It’s a bad look for the state Senate president pro tem, especially if he decides to enter the U.S. Senate race.
First, Marsh has led an effort to repeal the Common Core educational guidelines from Alabama’s schools. His bill is ill-designed, detrimental to public education in our state and fraught with, as they often say in Montgomery, “unintended consequences.”
Second, Marsh is co-sponsor on a bill from Republican Sen. Greg Albritton that would have installed sweeping changes to the state’s ethics laws and allowed lobbyists to offer unlimited gifts to public officials.
Both efforts are either dead or nearing extinction. Can we get a hallelujah?
The ethics bill has expired because the Senate Judiciary Committee saw it for what it was — a sham. “I have a hard time seeing it coming back,” committee Chairman Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, told The Associated Press. “It’s just too controversial, too fast. There are a lot of questions in there, a lot of concerns.”
Albritton claimed the bill was necessary because the existing ethics law — which Republicans famously wrote after taking control of state politics in 2010 — wasn’t clear. But vague on what? In a radio appearance this week on Birmingham’s 99.5 FM, Marsh tried to paint Albritton’s ethics overhaul as an economic necessity because stringent governmental transparency might submarine development deals whose authors prefer secrecy.
When 99.5 host Matt Murphy pushed Marsh to name one development deal Alabama had lost because of its ethics laws, he couldn’t — or wouldn’t. And then he hung up the phone in anger. That’s hardly senatorial behavior.
As for Marsh’s Common Core vendetta, it’s transitioned from a Republican charade to a full-blown disaster that’s stalled in the Alabama House. State educators and administrators, by and large, oppose it. Power-brokers of the state’s business communities are against it. The state’s military officials are against it. (For starters, they value national guidelines that ease military families’ frequent moves.)
What’s more, Marsh’s announcement last month ignored the fact that Alabama withdrew from the national Common Core consortium six years ago, and that the state’s K-12 schools were operating with homegrown guidelines that had been repeatedly tweaked — by Alabamians, not federal overseers. Facts matter less the closer we get to Election Day.
Marsh has wasted his beef with the state Board of Education’s inability to dramatically raise students’ academic results — a legitimate complaint — by shrouding it in a foolish attempt to repeal Common Core, a talking point frequent on the far right.
If these bills became law, Alabamians would lose. Their state’s ethics laws would be gutted and its public schools would fall farther behind the nation’s best. Score not one, but two, for Alabama.