This article is based on a summary of pre-filed bills that was prepared by activist Joann Cummings.
In the 1993 Harold Ramis movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character Phil wakes up every day to find that one particular day, Groundhog Day, is being repeated over and over. It is fitting that the 2016 general session of the Alabama Legislature is starting on February 2, Groundhog Day, because it appears that the Legislature is prepared to repeat what has been done before year after year, introducing bills that do nothing to solve the state’s intractable problems. A quick look at the dozens of bills that have been pre-filed shows that the legislators are more interested in pursuing bills that pander to the gun and anti-abortion lobbies than doing anything to make Alabama a prosperous and modern place to live.
This happens every year. The session opens and nothing new is proposed. It’s just like last year, and the year before that, and so on. You can almost hear Phil’s alarm clock blaring Sonny & Cher’s I Got You Babe for the thousandth tiresome time.
Senator Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, has been extra busy between sessions preparing meaningless and hateful legislation. He’s pre-filed SB9, which unconstitutionally seeks to prohibit abortions after a fetus’s heartbeat is detectable. This is nothing but a right-wing attack on women’s reproductive choice, and if enacted would result in yet another expensive lawsuit that the state is doomed to lose, much like Governor Bentley’s quixotic lawsuit against Planned Parenthood. Every year numerous bills like this one are introduced to pander to the anti-choice Bubbas who pay more taxes than Georgia Pacific. Nothing changes.
I’ve got you, babe!
Senator Allen has also introduced SB6, titled the “Alabama Heritage Protection Act,” which prohibits Alabama cities from removing Confederate flags flying around to celebrate a war the South started to protect slavery. Good old Alabama. Racism gets votes year in and year out. Nothing has changed since George Wallace stood in a schoolhouse door in 1963.
I’ve got you, babe!
Another Allen bill, SB12, panders to Alabamians who have been whipped into a fearful frenzy over the threat of radical Islamic terrorists, who have not to my knowledge targeted the great state of Alabama for any attacks. This worthless piece of xenophobic legislation would subject any property seized from terrorists to claims by terrorism victims, and gives the GOP bragging rights that they are tough on terrorism. Since Alabama has never experienced any acts of Islamic terrorism, and since I’m guessing we are pretty far down on ISIS’s list of targets, if passed this bill will just gather dust in the Alabama Code.
Racism and ignorance continue to be sure bets to get GOP votes.
Senator Allen didn’t forget to pander to the gun nuts, either. His SB14 would legalize carrying a firearm in the car and remove the rule that carrying a firearm without a permit constitutes disorderly conduct. This will, I’m sure, appeal to those folks who Fox News tells every day are in danger of having their guns seized from their homes as President Obama finally unveils his nefarious plan to turn America into a totalitarian state. If you look at previous legislative sessions you will see that our legislators repeatedly propose bills aimed at turning Alabama into the Old West where everyone wears a six-gun into the saloon. Nothing changes. It’s the same old, same old.
I’ve got you, babe!
One thing has changed, though, which is that this year it’s an odds-on bet that some form of state-run lottery will pass. I’m opposed to this on grounds that the state needs structural constitutional and tax reform rather than a band-aid fix of a lottery that will be mostly financed by the poor and working folks, but my view is not popular with liberals or conservatives (or my wife), and the majority of Alabamians support a lottery. Representative Alan Harper, R. Tuscaloosa, has introduced a bill to create a lottery, but without specifying where the resulting revenues would go. You remember Harper, the jackass who posted a racist rant on Facebook urging his constituents not to patronize convenience stores run by brown folks with accents. It is ironic that one of the main beneficiaries of a lottery will be the convenience stores where most lottery tickets are sold.
A state-run lottery would not provide any income until 2017, and so the principal problem facing the legislature remains the lack of sufficient state revenue to provide minimally adequate governmental services. Once again, not a single bill has been introduced to deal with our abysmally low taxes. Once again, not a single bill has been introduced to rectify the sickening unfairness of our tax structure, under which large landowners and corporations avoid most taxes but the poorest among us must pay up to a 10% sales tax on groceries, and must pay income tax on incomes insufficient to keep a family housed and clothed. Nothing changes. It’s the same today as yesterday, and the day before that.
I’ve got you, babe!
The difference between the Alabama Legislature and Phil from Groundhog Day is that as the days repeated and he lived the same day over and over, Phil learned, changed, grew, and became a better person. The repetition itself became a symbol for metamorphosis through learning, and at the end the formerly self-centered callow Phil has turned into an admirable man with an appreciation for life he never would have had without his fantastical experiences in Punxsutawney, PA.
The Alabama Legislature and, I’m sad to say, the Alabama electorate do not learn from repetition. The state faces the same problems every year, and the politicians we send to Montgomery deflect those problems by appealing to the worst racist and xenophobic impulses of the average white Alabamian. Every year, the politicians lie about who the enemy is. The enemy is Obama, who is a black man, and we all know what that means. The enemy is a terrorist group that has probably never even heard of Alabama. The enemy is the federal courts, who are stripping away religious freedoms by not allowing us to be homophobic bigots.
It is a lie. The enemy is our elected leaders who look for moral guidance to indicted House Speaker Mike Hubbard, who thinks it’s perfectly all right to make money from lobbyists who seek to influence the government. The enemy is the dark money flowing everywhere from billionaires and large corporations who secretly finance those politicians who are willing to keep their interests paramount over the interests of the common men and women they con into voting for them against their own self-interest.
The enemy is looking at us in the mirror, because as a state we keep sending these clowns to Montgomery.
Alabama needs to finally wake up and realize it’s February 3. If Groundhog Day keeps going on and on we are going to keep electing corrupt politicians who win votes by being for guns and against gays, but whose real masters are the rich who refuse to pay their fair share of taxes.
I’ve got you, babe.