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Sunday, July 31, 2005
By Steven L. Taylor

Yes, it’s a twofer Sunday!

From the Mobile Register:

Wasting time a Goat Hill art form
Sunday, July 31, 2005
By STEVEN L. TAYLOR
Special to the Register

On July 19, the Alabama Legislature went into a special session that lasted until last Tuesday, spending an estimated $108,000 to do so. The reason that they were called into special session was because they ran out of time in the regular session to get one of their most fundamental tasks finished: the completion of the state’s budget.

We do now have a completed budget (the Legislature having completed the General Fund budget in a little over a week) and a raise for the state’s non-education workers. Why it was impossible to complete this work in the regular session has not been adequately explained.

Indeed, in the special session, politicians reaffirmed the fact that they are careless with the people’s time and money. Consider the fact that the House passed a resolution, sponsored by Rep. Leslie Vance, D-Phenix City, calling on the citizens of Alabama to boycott Aruba because no conclusion has been reached in the Natalee Holloway case.

Clearly, the Legislature would rather spend time on nonsense than on the business of the state. (Remember 2004, when the Legislature had the time to name Conecuh Ridge Whiskey the state spirit, and had time to override the governor’s veto of that resolution, instead of dealing with the governor’s accountability proposals?)

By the logic of the Natalee Holloway resolution, no one should travel anywhere that a serious crime remains unsolved. Indeed, perhaps the citizens of Alabama should not travel at all; serious crimes remain unresolved around the globe.

My wife asked me if the Legislature was going to pass a resolution about which parts of Montgomery have unsolved crimes, so that we know not to travel there as well.

Not only are these thing vacuous wastes of time, but they are insulting and/or egotistical as well.

They are insulting because part of the reason that legislatures pass them is because the politicians think/hope that the public at large will interpret them as real action. Legislators want us to think that empty statements from legislatures actually matter.

For them to think that, they have to assume that the public isn’t too bright.

If the Legislature collectively thinks that its words requesting a boycott of Aruba will actually affect Aruban authorities, then legislators think rather highly of themselves. Resolutions such as this highlight that fact.

It should be noted that the resolution itself is simply a communication, and has no legal authority. Indeed, it can basically be considered grandstanding by the House.

I understand that there is often a need to “do something” in these cases, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that something should, in fact, be done.

If they have to hold special sessions to deal with their basic responsibilities, perhaps Alabama legislators should re-evaluate what they do in the regular session.

And here’s a suggestion: “Devolve” power over local issues to local government. If the Legislature didn’t have to spend time considering a slate of local bills each session, perhaps it could get the work of the state done in a timely manner.

For example, Montgomery County wanted to hold a referendum to raise property taxes for the school system, but had to ask the Legislature for permission.

Not only is the process an affront to democracy itself — why shouldn’t the voters in Montgomery have the chance to make decisions about their own affairs? — but it also underscores one of many problems with the Alabama Constitution of 1901: the need for the centralized state Legislature to have to deal with a plethora of local issues each term.

Clearly legislators do not have enough time to deal with everything on their plate as it stands, so why not give us power over the issues which directly affect us as citizens of cities and counties?

Is it really too much to ask them to use their time (i.e., our time) wisely? Or, at the very least, is it too much to ask that they not insult our intelligence when they are engaged in wasting our time?

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6 Responses to “PoliColumn II: Stupid Legislature Tricks”

  1. Matt Murphy's Mind Says:

    Alabama Congress: A Waist of Time

    Dr. Steven Taylor, a friend of the Matt Murphy Radio program, and author of Poliblogger wrote a great editorial this morning in the Mobile Register in regards to the general waste of time the recent Alabama Special Session was:
    Indeed, in the special…

  2. Mark Says:

    Dear Steven,
    I posted on your columns and Lanoue’s in BNews. On this article I wanted to also note that the Legislature pasted the Budget on one year tricks that will create more problems in the future most reprsented by the 6% raise in the general fund that does not have enough money in the future to pay this large of a raise. The Governor wanted a 4% raise with 2% in reserve only if we had the money. We need Constitutional reform and electoral reform.
    Mark

  3. Dr. Steven Taylor Says:

    Agreed on all counts.

  4. Bart Harmon Says:

    Steven, I agree on your point that it’s ridiculous to boycott Aruba–taking the legislative “wisdom” to it’s logical extreme, we ought to also boycott Montgomery and Birmingham. Below is some information from FBI crime statistics I used a few weeks ago in comparing the risk in going to Aruba to almost any college town that a girl like poor Natalee Holloway might be going to.

    JUST COMPARE CRIME STATISTICS IN “INNOCENT�? COLLEGE TOWNS TO ARUBA

    Accord to FBI crime reports here (these are college towns with over 100k population–and I know most of crimes happened off campus–I haven’t been able to get crime stats limited to campus yet. Nonetheless, we are comparing apples to apples because the Aruba numbers include the entire population, not just crimes in tourist areas. Also, since when do bad people limit their evil to one part of town–they go where the most vunerable victims can be found. )

    in 2004, in Athens-Clarke County, GA (Go Bulldogs!), there were 514 violent crimes, 7 murders and 61 forcible rapes.

    In Atlanta, (�?I’m a rambling wreck from Ga. Tech….�?), 1n 2004, there were 7,926 violent crimes, 114 murders and 267 forcible rapes.

    In Baton Rouge (�?Geaux you Tigers!�?), 1n 2004, there were 2,444 violent crimes, 47 murders and 79 forcible rapes.

    In Birmingham (Touchdown Samford!), 1n 2004, there were 3,261 violent crimes, 61 murders and 240 forcible rapes.

    In Montgomery (AUM, Ala. State, Huntingdon), 1n 2004, there were 1330 violent crimes, 25 murders and 108 forcible rapes.

    In Nashville (Vandy), 1n 2004, there were 8,597 violent crimes, 58 murders and 391 forcible rapes.

    In South Bend (fightin’ Irish), 1n 2004, there were 762 violent crimes, 10 murders and 71 forcible rapes.

    Now, how about Aruba? According to the Pittsburg Post-Gazette, “Last year the island of 72,000 had one murder and six rapes.�?

    Keep up the good work, poliblogger!

  5. ryanVOX Says:

    Chillin’ ‘Round the Horn…

    At the Poli Blog: Stupid Legislature Tricks. Do we really need to say more?

  6. bryan Says:

    Birmingham 2005 so far
    Murders 83 out of population of 250,000 (city)
    Aruba 2005 1 murder
    Holloway was 23.9 times more likely to be murdered in her home town.


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