Measured purely by the number of bills passed and signed into law, it also was productive.
And, assessed along political lines, it was a session steeped in Republican accomplishments.
That is no surprise, of course. Finally in control of the Legislature, the state GOP not only made good on its pre-session promises, it began what supporters hope will be the permanent transformation of Alabama into a state where the Republican brand of conservatism rules the day.
Looking at legislation just passed — and some that was not passed — it is clear that the conservative call for less bureaucracy, less oversight and less government involvement in people’s lives does not apply when matters like abortion, voting and legal defense for the indigent are involved.
In these cases and others — such as enforcement of the new, harsh illegal-immigrant law — the state will assume a more active role in regulating what goes on. It also will assume the financial burden that goes with it.
Although the GOP has vowed to bring jobs to Alabama and put people to work, the state’s unemployment rate refuses to return to manageable levels. Some of this can be attributed to job losses from the recent tornados; however, the failure of the party to convince one of its members to go along with the plan to let Jefferson County have home rule long enough to tax itself out of its current financial crisis is resulting in massive layoffs of public employees.
When you add those put out of work by state budget cuts to the Jefferson County job losses, Gov. Robert Bentley may become the state’s first governor-for-free if he keeps his promise not to accept a paycheck until Alabama has full employment.
Though the governor may work gratis, the state Legislature won’t. In a serious slap in the face for Alabamians facing unemployment, our public servants in the House and Senate refused to consider canceling their self-imposed pay raise. Though some legislators have refused to take the increase, most pocketed the money and never looked back.
This self-aggrandizement was all the more difficult to take when compared to the way legislators made 130,000 public employees pay more for pension coverage and, in effect, handed them a 2.5 percent salary cut. While there are good reasons for shoring up the pension fund, passing it while leaving legislative raises untouched will not go down well with constituents.
However, budgets were passed on time and, in keeping with the Republican position on taxes, the state’s regressive revenue system will remain unchanged another year. Though the GOP can hardly be blamed for a tax code that burdens the poor and rewards the rich, the new party-in-power apparently has no problem with the status quo.
Now Alabamians must sit back and wait for the laws to be tested and enforced, for the cuts to be made and the results assessed. Then we will know how to truly judge this Legislature.