Lawmakers ignore reforms
The current session of the Alabama State Legislature is only halfway completed, but already we've learned a great many things. First and foremost, it's become apparent that change won't come easily to that body, if at all.
Despite the hopes of the more optimistic among us, lawmakers haven't gotten on board with Gov. Bob Riley's proposals to bring reform and accountability to state government. Far from it.
And according to our Republican governor, the Democrat-laden Legislature is too busy cooking up ideas for new taxes to even give his proposed reforms a good listen.
A couple of weeks ago, Riley's office cranked out a press release entitled "House Kills Accountability and Reform," which left little to the imagination in terms of how the governor views lawmakers' attitude toward his proposals.
With that last line, Riley could have been reading from a script -- the one that's long been passed around among politicians who've hitched their wagons to major reform. Or, the one that's been read from time and again by frustrated voters who've grown weary of hauling slop to the trough.
On the heels of the gloomy "House Kills Accountability and Reform" release, Riley has now put out a six-page document billed as "A Half-Time Report on the 2004 Regular Session," which goes into more detail about the reforms the governor has proposed, and how they've been treated by the Legislature.
As half-time reports go, it's not an uplifting one, at least not from the Riley camp's point of view. Among the defeats its pages detail are:
All of these are good ideas, the adoption of which would go a long way toward accomplishing what reform and accountability measures are meant to do -- restore some degree of public trust in elected officials. Not all of Riley's ideas are as sound. No one was expecting the Legislature to swallow the entire reform pill all at once -- a bit of culling here and there was expected.
But that so little has been done in the area of reform halfway through the session is a major disappointment.
Meanwhile, lawmakers have not been idle. They are gearing up to consider a slew of new tax proposals aimed at raising additional revenue needed to provide adequate state services. Right now, the new taxes suggested by a bipartisan Legislative committee total over $300 million.
The need for more money is undoubtedly Alabama's most pressing issue. But it was also Alabama's most pressing issue last year, when voters overwhelmingly rejected Amendment One, a massive tax plan put forth to prop up the state's slumping economy.
And the reason most voters gave for casting a ballot against that plan? You guessed it -- a lack of faith in elected officials. That's why reform and accountability have been such a hot topic this year.
Somebody needs to draw the Alabama State Legislature a picture.