North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

Opinion

February 15, 2013

Steve Flowers: GOP super-majority is imposing its political will

COMMENTARY — The 2013 legislative session kicked off last week. There is an old saying that nobody’s life, liberty or property is safe when the legislature is in session. A more accurate description for today in Alabama, with a Republican super majority in charge in both chambers, would be that no liberal or Democratic interests are safe when this Alabama legislature is in session.

 It is hard to believe that they are in the third year of their quadrennium. The first two years have resulted in a plethora of conservative legislation. This GOP legislative body cannot be labeled as RINO’s. They are real Republicans. They have been determined to put their conservative stamp on the state. They have indeed left an indelible mark on the Alabama political structure. Lying in the carnage of their march is the once vaunted Alabama Education Association. They have been stampeded and stomped on by this herd of elephants.

In their first two years this GOP army has marched in unison lockstep with their leadership. They have accomplished ethics reform, tort reform and tenure reform all with a right wing, pro-business tint.

They have also cut the state budgets by $750 million over the past two years, mostly on the backs of teachers and state employees. They also enacted one of the most stringent anti-immigration bills in the nation, which has been the center of controversy and litigation.

You would think that they might rest on their laurels and run for re-election next year, espousing the fact that they have been the most conservative legislature in history. However, that will not be the case. They are bringing forth another chapter in conservatism with a new reactionary agenda entitled, “We Dare Defend Our Rights.”

Just prior to the session, Speaker Mike Hubbard, the king of the House, launched yet another political action committee that he can use as a vehicle to keep his troops in line and also keep them in office. The new PAC is called Storm PAC. A high profile fundraiser for the new PAC was held a week ago in the Auburn home of Atlanta Braves pitcher Tim Hudson.

Some of the bills that will be on the 2013 GOP agenda will include an anti-abortion bill entitled the Women’s Health and Safety Act. This legislation would require direct physician involvement and set mandatory standards for nursing care and post-operative follow up visits at abortion clinics, as well as establishing penalties for health care professionals who would dare to perform an abortion in Alabama.

In order to make clear that Alabama and this legislature are pro gun and pro Second Amendment, they are proposing a constitutional amendment that declares that Alabamians have the right to keep and bear arms.

The House agenda will call for a plan to enhance free enterprise in Alabama. Republicans want to strengthen the state’s career technical education program by making sure that high school students have access to updated technology and equipment.

They are also offering a Red Tape Reduction Act that would require each state agency to prepare an economic impact analysis prior to the adoption of any proposed regulation that could have an adverse impact on small business.

Even though ObamaCare is now the law of the land, the legislature is proposing a futile constitutional amendment that declares that Alabama is not part of the Union and we will not adopt ObamaCare. Specifically, they will attach language that mandates employers provide insurance coverage for contraceptives and abortion inducing agents.

Gov. Bentley backed off of a proposal to reduce the state’s workforce by offering an early retirement incentive package to certain state employees. Bentley rolled out the idea in September and said that 1,500 state employees would take advantage of the plan and save the state an estimated $82 million. It later became apparent that not many state workers would utilize Bentley’s plan. Therefore, the governor will not introduce this legislation in the session.

It should be an interesting yet predictable legislative session.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. He served 16 years in the state legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

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