Alabama boob-grabber Love Guv Robert Bentley called a special session of the Alabama Legislature for August because the legislature failed to do its damn job in the spring regular session and pass a workable budget that adequately funds minimal state services, including Medicaid. The stated intention of the special session was to pass a lottery bill for consideration by the voters in the November general election and to fix the budget shortfall that threatens to collapse Alabama’s healthcare system and deprive hundreds of thousands of children and disabled individuals of access to basic healthcare services.
As the special session ticks down its last few days, it is apparent that, thanks to the bumbling of Governor Bentley and the Republican supermajority in the legislature, neither goal will be achieved. It would be transparent sarcasm if we said we were in the least surprised, because this administration and this legislature have shown time and again that they lack the competence to govern this state.
The special session started with the House of Representatives selecting a new House Speaker to replace convicted felon and former House Speaker Mike Hubbard, who is now busy writing obnoxious emails whining about how that jury in Lee County treated him so unfairly. The House selected Rep. Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, as the new Speaker. McCutcheon, you may recall, stood staunchly by Hubbard’s side throughout Hubbard’s investigation, indictment, and trial on 12 felony counts of ethics violations while Hubbard was House Speaker and chair of the state GOP. His selection signals that the GOP legislators have learned nothing from Hubbard’s conviction and plans to continue business as usual at the corrupt Montgomery pig trough.
Then it was the Senate’s turn. Two lottery bills were proposed, both sponsored, oddly enough, by Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville. McClendon’s first bill was not a “clean” lottery bill, containing controversial provisions dealing with allowing other gambling activities, and the Senate killed that bill on a procedural vote. The other bill, which McClendon sponsored but was principally pushed by Governor Bentley, started out as a “clean” lottery bill that would direct 100% of lottery proceeds to go into the state’s general fund. It was estimated that the lottery would raise $225 million annually beginning in 2020 but that estimate was based on a flimsy four-state comparison with about as much statistical validity as an opinion poll conducted by your drunk uncle at his local bar. The bill passed the Senate on Friday on a 21-12 vote after a series of amendments were adopted that would direct 10% of the lottery proceeds to the education trust fund and $100 million earmarked for Medicaid. Yr Strangers opposed that measure because it left too much control over the money in the hands of the greedy corrupt GOP legislators.
For some inexplicable reason, the legislature did not meet on Monday. On Tuesday, the House took up the Senate’s bill, and right away ran into technical difficulties because the senate clerk had bungled the amendments and so the version sent to the House was right back to the original 100% to the general fund bill. In order for the bill to get on the November ballot, as opposed to a special election in the spring that would have cost the state around $3 million, the House needed to pass the Senate version no later than the close of business Wednesday.
Meanwhile, our politically irrelevant idiot of a governor decided to enter into negotiations for a state compact with the Poarch Creek Indian tribe, which already has a monopoly on legal gambling in Alabama at its two reservation slots casinos. Federal law gives state governors extraordinary powers to negotiate deals to allow gambling by federally protected Native American tribes, and apparently Bentley sought to horse-trade PCI’s expansion into off-reservation venues, on a monopoly basis, for a one-time payment of $225 million, which would be enough to save Medicaid for one more year. Since this was occurring without the involvement of the legislature, naturally many legislators became suspicious, I’m sure wondering how they could get a cut of money they weren’t involved in bringing in to the state’s coffers.
To make the storm of nincompoopery perfect, on Monday and Tuesday the Jefferson County GOP caucus got cold feet because some GOP candidates in the county believed that putting a lottery on the general election ballot would bring “the liberals” to the polls in droves, hurting Republican chances in November. Lottery supporters in more secure districts poo-pooed all that and urged the legislature to put the matter to a vote by the people of Alabama.
The House did not have the courage to even vote on the bill. Instead, opponents of the lottery bill used an arcane procedure in the house rules to kill the bill without voting on it. A bill must pass the appropriate house committee (in this case, the Economic Development and Tourism Committee) before it can come to the floor. And the full house cannot vote on a bill on the same day it comes out of committee. There is a meaningless rule that says a committee must give its members 24 hours notice before the committee can meet to consider a bill, and that rule is waived every legislative day in every session on a voice vote.
Except this time lottery opponents called for a roll call vote on the procedural motion to allow the committee to meet without giving the 24 hours notice, and that vote failed to pass the necessary 4/5 supermajority that is required to allow such a “leave of the House” committee meeting. The vote was 59 to 33 in favor of allowing the meeting, so two-thirds of the House members voting were in favor. In this technical parliamentary maneuver though, and with the clock ticking, a mere 33 representatives were able to ensure the Senate lottery bill could not possibly get out of committee and come to the floor of the house for a vote before Thursday, one day too late to get the proposed amendment on the November ballot.
It was a chickenshit way for a minority of legislators to kill an important proposed law.
It really was a perfect storm of legislative cowardice, conniving, stupidity, and incompetence.
Now, the rest of the special session will be spent in the more pleasurable task of divvying up the BP oil spill settlement proceeds.
Isn’t that nice?