Last week, our own local elected member of the Alabama House of Representatives, Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn), announced the creation of a new group to help craft the state GOP’s legislative direction for the upcoming session: the Commission on the Protection of Alabama Values and States Rights.
The commission, made up of various Republican lawmakers and citizens, according to the Tuscaloosa News, “is tasked with listening to ‘typical Alabamians’ to ensure that conservative social issues and 10th Amendment guarantees ‘are given prominent attention.’”
The majority spent the previous legislative session discussing those issues (like illegal immigration and anti-abortion laws), so much so they neglected to pass a state budget.
Now, we are forced to vote on whether we should raid the state’s only major savings account, to the tune of $437 million over three years. If they had taken care of business when they were supposed to, perhaps these other issues would have solved themselves.
While I can’t argue that our state has seen some debate on these issues (with discussion loudly led by Speaker Hubbard and the like), one does wonder if these are truly the issues we need to be focused on at this time.
I don’t think Alabama’s “values” of intolerance toward immigrants, non-Christians, pro-choice women or the poor are due to change any time soon.
And, as for the “states rights” tenet for the commission – one wonders if we’ve suddenly travelled back to the 1860s or if Speaker Hubbard has been possessed by the nullifying spirit of former vice president John C. Calhoun.
Rather than focus on these “values” issues, could we perhaps take a stab at attempting to solve another issue that’s on the front burner for most Alabamians: our lackluster economy.
Figures released by the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations lists the statewide unemployment level at 9 percent. 30 Alabama counties have unemployment rates above 10 percent, including all of Lee County’s neighbors.
Our state’s leaders can and must use every tool in the economic development arsenal to try to bring good jobs to Alabama, and that includes legislative support.
We can offer incentives to companies to relocate their means of production here, boasting a workforce that is ready to start the job from Day One.
We can invest in jobs training and continuing education for Alabama’s work force – insuring that every paying job we bring in will have a highly-qualified and educated candidate waiting to fill that position.
We can encourage partnerships between our high schools and our state’s technical schools, trying to make occupational education a cornerstone of every part of our state’s educational system.
We don’t need a Commission for the Protection of Alabama’s Values and States Rights.
We need a Commission for the Protection of Alabama’s Common Sense – to make sure our legislative leaders focus on our real-life issues, not political specters to score points with their party and political base.
But – I’m not holding my breath here. We do live in Alabama, after all.
Bless our hearts, we have and probably will continue to find the logical way to do something and then go the opposite route.
Sadly, it’s who we are – and, arguably, one of our most dearly held “values.”
Perhaps one day we will, but not if we continue to focus on non-issues and bogeymen created to distract us from reality.