The Gadsden Times on state legislators:

Posted 5/12/16

The next time Nick Saban or Gus Malzahn are short a place kicker or punter, they should head to Goat Hill in Montgomery. As we’ve often noted, Alabama’s legislators love kicking cans out of sight and mind, even though they always return like boomerangs.

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The Gadsden Times on state legislators:

Posted

The next time Nick Saban or Gus Malzahn are short a place kicker or punter, they should head to Goat Hill in Montgomery. As we’ve often noted, Alabama’s legislators love kicking cans out of sight and mind, even though they always return like boomerangs.

The Legislature wrapped up its 2016 regular session last week, leaving three critical issues unsettled.

Gov. Robert Bentley’s $800 million prison construction plan died with the session. A compromise plan scaled back to $550 million was approved by the Senate, but never came to the floor in the House. Speaker Mike Hubbard said it would’ve been useless, because the votes weren’t there to break a filibuster.

The day before, a bill to establish a plan for spending an expected $1 billion settlement from BP for the 2010 Gulf oil spill died in a Senate committee.

The intention was to issue bonds against the settlement funds, which would mean more cash up front that would be used to pay back state debts and for road projects across the state. That collapsed in a dispute between lawmakers from the coastal counties most impacted by the spill, who believe their areas deserve more, and those from other parts of the state, who insist Alabama as a whole suffered and the windfall should be spread around.

Unless something changes, the state will only get $50 million a year from the settlement, parceled out according to a judge’s ruling in the lawsuit.

The collateral damage was Medicaid, which insists it needs an extra $85 million to adequately care for its clients and move forward with the new regional care organizations that have been seen as a way to control the agency’s costs. Alabama gaining the benefits from the BP money up front would’ve eased that problem.

It’s unfair to call the session a complete failure. We’ve praised the bipartisan efforts that produced a strong education budget and raises for teachers.

However, we’re growing weary — and Alabama’s voters should be, too — of things being left undone or unresolved in the regular legislative session.

Bentley long ago promised a special session on Medicaid, and last week signaled his willingness to call one on the prison plan. He did it twice last year, and despite his scandal-weakened state still has that weapon in his arsenal. We think he’ll use it.

We suppose it will take that — and a focused session call that prevents legislators from posturing and firing razzberries at Washington — to get anything accomplished.

The end result may not please everyone; compromises rarely do. Medicaid might have to do with less (although the RCOs must move forward). Any prison fix might not be as expansive or involve as much debt or deviation from state policy as Bentley’s (although opponents need to understand more prison space must be a part of easing the overcrowding).

We chuckle at the territorial nose-slicing and face-spiting we’ve seen over how to best use a billion dollars. Surely they’ll get that figured out.

We’re just tired of what seems to be the prevailing attitude in Montgomery: “We’re not going to make any tough calls until we absolutely have to.”

We think that’s a craven, irresponsible, unacceptable dereliction of the duties these people were elected to do.

— The Gadsden Times