The News Courier in Athens, Alabama


June 2, 2013

State gov’t should work for citizens

Montgomery Advertiser on a more effective Legislature:

With so many unpleasant memories of this year's legislative session to contemplate, looking ahead to next year's session may be more than most Alabamians can stomach just now. Even so, we hope legislators are thinking about it, and thinking particularly about making the next session function better, about letting the legislative process work through meaningful debate of bills, about responsibly dealing with issues and appointments.

The 2013 session stands as a case study in how not to proceed. There's no better example than the Alabama Accountability Act, a gravely flawed piece of legislation that became law not after vigorous debate, but after being deceptively muscled through in a manner that subverted the legislative process.

What began as a school flexibility measure that enjoyed considerable support among educators entered a conference committee and came out as an instrument of sweeping change in education and tax policy bearing scant resemblance to the original bill. Instead of working out the differences in the House and Senate version of the bill, which is what conference committees are supposed to do, the Republican-dominated committee essentially wrote a new bill.

That bill, creating hefty state tax credits for parents opting for private schools for their children and labeling public schools as "failing" without properly defining the term, then streaked through the Legislature like a bullet train with the GOP supermajorities in both houses greasing the tracks. There was no real debate, no opportunity for a careful consideration of the implications of the bill.

Not surprisingly, the act has been beset with serious concerns ever since. ...

Appointments to the boards of trustees of the University of Alabama, the University of Montevallo, Alabama State University, the University of North Alabama and the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind never got a vote. Nor did appointments to the state Ethics Commission, the State Textbook Committee, the Environmental Management Commission, the Alabama Commission on Higher Education and more than 40 other positions. That's inexcusable.

Simply put, the institution must work better. Of course there are sharp partisan differences and clear control by one party, but that does not justify the distorting of a process that, if allowed to, works for the good of the people.

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