Can We All Get Along

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The words in the title of this Report could very well be a sentiment that needs to prevail at the Alabama State House. The full quote below was a plea for people to become more tolerant of others and try to work together to solve problems.

“People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along? Can we stop making it, making it horrible for the older people and the kids? … It’s just not right. It’s not right. It’s not, it’s not going to change anything. We’ll, we’ll get our justice … Please, we can get along here. We all can get along. I mean, we’re all stuck here for a while. Let’s try to work it out. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to work it out.” (Rodney Glen King, May 1, 1992)

The past two weeks the Alabama Legislature has been stuck on issues that divide the Membership and cause hard feeling all around. Last week the House of Representatives took up SB 60 dealing with monuments. This legislation was introduced by Sen. Gerald Allen. Sen. Allen offered this legislation in a sincere effort on his part to protect monuments or memorials that have been in place for 20 or more years. While this legislation was viewed by some as an attempt to protect Confederate monuments and memorials it applies across the board to ALL monuments and memorials that have been in place for 20 or more years. That includes Confederate monuments and memorials and it also includes all civil rights monuments and memorials that meet the same requirements that apply to all monuments and memorials. It seems that any time the race card can be introduced it is. Every Member of the Legislature represents two constituencies – the voters in their District first and the State-at Large second. On both sides of these issues we find that people become offended and defensive. When that happens feelings begin to get hurt. Issues that should be debated on the merits of the legislation often become personal crusades that tend to break down the system and results in very little being accomplished. In the words above “Can We All Get Along?” Can we realize that we should look for the greater good rather than looking for a reason to think the other side is trying to attack what we hold dear – both ways?

This week the court mandated issue of redistricting came to a head. This became necessary after the redistricting plan put in place prior to the 2014 Legislative elections was ordered to be redrawn by the Federal Courts. Keep in mind that at the time the existing Districts were designed they were subject to “Pre-Clearance” by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). DOJ approved the redistricting plan designed by the Alabama Legislature and the 2014 elections were held. A challenge to the approved plan had been filed and after working its way all the way to the United States Supreme Court the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered that three Senate Districts and six House Districts be redrawn. It is impossible to redraw nine Districts without impacting a number of other Districts. As such, new redistricting plans were introduced in both the House and the Senate. Once again the Democrats have strong objections to the plans that have been put forward by the redistricting committees in the House and the Senate. With the Republicans holding super-majorities in both the House and the Senate the Democrats are at a distinct disadvantage. The only two tools at their disposal are procedural efforts to totally slow down the legislative process or if dissatisfied after a final vote to return to the Courts. It has become very evident that they will employ both avenues to achieve their goal. At the end of the day the State of Alabama will spend millions more dollars to resolve this issue. In the words above “Can We All Get Along?” Can we realize that we should look for the greater good rather than looking for a reason to think the other side is trying to attack what we hold dear – both ways?

This week the fight over the regulation of day-care facilities in the state moved to the Senate Judiciary Committee. In the House it was thought that both sides of the issue had come to an agreed-to Bill and HB 277 passed the House with an overwhelming vote. Fast forward to Wednesday, May 3, 2017, and in the Senate Judiciary Committee yet more amendments from the faith-based community come forward to further weaken HB 277. Politics has been described as the art of the possible. Successful legislation is most often based on compromise based on good-faith negotiations. Those good-faith negotiations assume that when the parties agree they agree. To someone on the outside it appears that there was an agreement to get the legislation out of the House and then efforts are being made to further diminish the impact of HB 277. That begs the question of how much is enough. Is the ultimate goal to protect the children or to protect faith based day care without regulation? In the words above “Can We All Get Along?” Can we realize that we should look for the greater good rather than looking for a reason to think the other side is trying to attack what we hold dear – both ways?

At most, there are six more Legislative Days left in the 2017 Regular Session. All indications point to the fact that there will be only five Legislative Days used and the Legislature will adjourn Sine Die on the 29th Legislative Day. Hundreds of Bills are poised to die for lack of consideration because contentious legislation has ruled the day. It is time that all of us involved in the process – Legislators, lobbyists, interest groups – realize that unless we all, and that means everyone, begin to look at the big picture and do what is in the best interest of the people of Alabama we are doomed to being subject to rule by Federal Courts and not by the people we have elected to represent us.

Ralph Waldo Emerson is quoted as saying “There is no limit to what can be accomplished if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.” In the political world the reality is that folks are looking to get the credit for what is done legislatively as they look to the next election. That is understandable and to be expected. That premise should be somewhat tempered by doing what is right. A common question in a job interview is “should you do the right thing or do something the right way?’ At the end of the day is there really a difference in the right thing or the right way? At the end of the day a Legislator should do what is in the best interest of the people who elected them.

Many times special interests are criticized and condemned. The problem is that no one individual considers his or her self a special interest. Everyone is a special interest of some sort. There is nothing to be ashamed about being a special interest and advocating for your beliefs as long as each individual realizes and understands that we are all, or should be, equal of voice. At the end of the day we need to consider the words above “Can We All Get Along?” Can we realize that we should look for the greater good rather than looking for a reason to think the other side is trying to attack what we hold dear – both ways?

The Alabama House will reconvene at 1:00pm on Tuesday, May 9, 2017
The Alabama Senate will reconvene at 2:00pm on Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The views and opinions contained in this report do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the clients of Public Strategies, LLC.