2013 proved ‘a pretty good session’

Published 11:00 pm Thursday, June 13, 2013

The 2013 Legislative Session is now history. The super Republican majority has continued their conservative march to the sea leaving dissident Democrats in carnage the way Sherman left Atlanta.

A cloture petition leaving very little room for debate accompanies each semi controversial measure. Most legislation is decided on by the House or Senate leadership in a cloakroom. The Governor is kept abreast but he is not leading the parade. That is not to say that the governor is being ignored or run over. He is on the same page with 90 percent of the issues. They are all singing out of the same hymnbook. These folks are not RINOs. They are real Republicans.

The Education Budget had an incremental increase in revenue. That is a good sign for Alabama’s economy. The Education Budget is a good barometer that Alabama’s economy is on the upswing because the Education Budget’s funds are derived from sales and income tax. The $5.8 billion Education Budget will allow for a 2 percent pay raise for K-12 employees and $40 million to pay for the Accountability/Private School Voucher Bill. This legislation was by far the most controversial issue of the session.

The poor General Fund Budget continues to limp along. It is still shackled by the money-eating monster known as Medicaid. As promised, the legislature and governor came forward with a plan to give some progress on a solution to the Medicaid dilemma, which now accounts for one third of the State’s General Fund Budget.

The legislature passed legislation that would ditch Alabama’s current fee for service system. Currently doctors and hospitals get paid for every procedure and office visit. Instead, under the new model legislation the state would be set up under a network of locally run managed care organizations. This should save money in the long haul but not immediately.

The legislature and governor never even considered adopting the ObamaCare Initiative to expand Medicaid. They said we cannot afford what we have now, much less add more obligations.

The legislature addressed the growing problem of prescription drug abuse and drug diversion in the state. A three-bill package promoted by the Alabama Medical Association should resolve some of these problems. The sponsors were Representatives April Weaver and Jim McClendon in the House and Sen. Cam Ward in the Senate.

Representative Mary Sue McClurkin passed an anti-Abortion bill early in the session. It puts new restrictions on abortion clinics that requires that doctors who perform abortions should at least have admitting privileges in the clinic’s city. It also makes abortion clinics meet the same standards of care and safety as any other outpatient surgical center. This seems only logical.

A session should be judged as much by what failed as it is by what passed. Laying in the wake were several measures that were good candidates for the shroud award. The House Health Committee quickly put to rest a bill that would have legalized small amounts of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

They refused to bend on the double dipping ban passed two years ago. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh floated a trial balloon to exempt current lawmakers from an upcoming ban on holding two state jobs. It was quickly rejected. Next year legislators who are on a state payroll will have to choose to serve in the legislature or keep their state jobs. They cannot do both.

On the last day of the session the Republican legislature approved a sweeping gun rights bill that gives carte blanche permission to carry a gun including the place you work.

The payday loan industry was successful in thwarting legislation that would cap rates on payday and title loans in the state.

Democrats proposed a vote on a state lottery. The Republican leadership pronounced it dead on arrival and indeed it died a quick death.

Sen. Hank Sanders for more than a decade has attempted to repeal the death penalty in Alabama. Not surprisingly it failed again.

All in all it was a pretty good session. Next year the session will begin early in January because it is an election year. All 140 seats in the legislature will be up for election next year. It should be a fun year.

Steve Flowers served 16 years in the state legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.