Hold on, say the people: State House should tread slowly on Dial/Laird bill
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Apr 14, 2012 | 2341 views |  0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A Republican (Sen. Gerald Dial of Lineville) and a Democrat (Rep. Richard Laird of Roanoke) teamed up to push a bill in the Alabama Legislature that would create a “district community service office” for their constituents in Randolph County.

Isn’t it good to see members of the parties cooperating?

The cooperation did not end there.

No sooner did the bill see the light of day than the leadership of the Randolph County Republican Party and the Randolph County Democratic Party teamed up to oppose the bill.

The Dial/Laird legislation would not create a physical office; rather, it would take money and put it into a grant fund that would be used to help county organizations.

This money would come from the tobacco-tax fund that currently goes to the county Water Authority. And Dial and Laird, of course — with the help of Rep. Duwayne Bridges, R-Valley — would determine where the grant fund money would go.

In addition to opposition from both county party organizations, the plan also was opposed by the Clay County Commission and Randolph County Commission, the Randolph County Chamber of Commerce, the Randolph County Industrial Development Council and, not surprisingly, the Water Authority, which would lose $54,000.

One wonders what Dial and Laird were thinking when they proposed to take money from one of the county’s critical agencies and set up what looks like a grant fund they could use to reward supporters. Dial has previously told The Star that the legislators would have discretion on how the money is spent.

Even if that was not their intent, the whole thing looks suspiciously like it was, which is why the whole matter has, according to a press release from the opposition, been met with “a huge and almost universal outcry.”

At an “emergency town hall meeting” Thursday evening, the opposition gathered in what has to be considered one of the more unique protests in recent memory. Opponents let their displeasure be known.

But is the Legislature listening?

Shortly before the meeting was held, the state Senate passed the Dial/Laird bill. It now goes to the House of Representatives.

Considering the opposition to this legislation and the impression it has given many voters, it would be wise for the House to set the bill aside until the complaints can be considered and the impact of the measure be fully understood.

What we have witnessed is an example of grass-roots politics in action. It also is an example of what can happen when elected representatives fail to consider the grassroots when they act.

Here are lessons to be learned.
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