The 2021 legislative session: much discussion, little action

The gambling bill is dead. There was not even an attempt at a bill to tackle the horrific state prisons. The governor still has all of his executive powers in place. The state of Alabama still refuses – against all the facts and basic math – to expand Medicaid.

And that’s basically the story of the 2021 Alabama legislative session: a bunch of things that didn’t happen.

Of course, soon you will be able to get a doctor-prescribed marijuana pill for a shortlist of ailments, and you can have alcohol delivered to your house and avoid those awkward run-ins in the liquor stores with other members of the hospital. the church. But in the grand scheme of things, that’s not much.

And “not much” is exactly what we will say the Legislature did in its 2021 session.

There were big and big ideas and questions to be dealt with and debated when this session began. Almost all are staying, and a special session is looming to tackle the two biggest – prisons and gambling.

The lack of progress was particularly appalling given the events of the past year, as this state’s shortcomings in various areas have been exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. We have huge education and infrastructure problems in our rural areas. We have third world health problems in many pockets of this state. And upward mobility is something that doesn’t exist here.

But instead of addressing these pressing issues, Alabama’s 30-day legislative debate has been mostly filled with empty rhetoric, shameful complacency, and waste of time.

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Instead, for example, of spending time debating the issue of our prisons – an issue lawmakers like to talk about in front of the cameras – they instead spent days debating the issue of trans athletes in sport. Such a pressing issue that the Alabama High School Athletic Association has never been asked once, in its 100-year history, to offer advice on such an issue. An issue that lawmakers, due to the unique position of the AHSAA, probably do not even have the power to regulate.

In fact, the only action taken on prisons was a grandiose bill that would prevent the governor from entering into long and costly contracts without legislative oversight – a direct shot at Governor Kay Ivey’s prison lease plan. Now, I’m certainly not a fan of Ivey’s plan – and I generally think it’s both silly and illogical – but watching lawmakers pass legislation that prevents him, or future governors, from tackling each other. to a problem that the legislator ignores is rather unnecessary. all around.

But there was simply no time to pass a prison bill. Or one on broadband infrastructure. Or the game / lottery invoice. Or on rural health care. Or to expand voting rights.

But it was time for the bill declaring that Alabama would not follow federal gun laws, which all of us know we absolutely would. Regardless, however, we still had to treat this waste of legislative space as if it were a real and serious bill.

Although much bigger and much more meaningful bills that would address the real problems of this state languished in obscurity, never until they were considered in committee.

Bills such as the one that would expand Medicaid in the state. Others that would change the bail process and provide more parole options to help alleviate our prison overcrowding issues. Others that would address voting issues, including increasing voting hours and opportunities – similar to changes that have been made in other states.

Until the last minutes of the session, our lawmakers ignored these bills in favor of nonsense. Much of the past week has been wasted on three bills – medical marijuana, limiting the governor’s power to issue a state of emergency, and banning vaccine passports.

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The medical marijuana bill was absurd. It only legalizes one pill and we still spent days sending this bill to two House committees and allowing the mad bat wing of ALGOP to filibuster for a while. whole day.

The bill to curtail Ivey’s powers was so stupid it failed after someone who actually read it pointed out that it would have cost us billions of federal dollars during the current pandemic.

Meanwhile, a ban on vaccine passports took up most of the morning of the last day, and it’s another bill that does nothing. Companies can still require employees to get vaccinated and can still ask customers to show proof of vaccination or wear a mask, and there is no penalty for anyone violating the non-passport warrant.

These are the issues that our lawmakers – and by that I mean Republicans (hey, don’t hold a supermajority if you don’t want accountability – have decided to address instead of a gambling bill. which is said to have grossed around a billion dollars each year and created thousands of jobs.

Gambling would pay for health care. He was going to pay for the expansion of broadband. He was going to cut taxes.

But the game is an important thing. And if the 2021 legislative session proved anything, it’s that the Alabama legislature isn’t doing great things.

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About Teresa G. Wilson

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