As the 2013 Legislative Session gets under way, Alabama Republican legislators will be dealing with a lot of facts and figures as they try to pass sensible budgets, eliminate wasteful and inefficient spending, and pay back the money being taken from the Alabama Trust Fund. If the Republican Legislative Agenda is any indication, there is a number that they clearly understand…Number 1.
According to a Gallup poll released on February 1st, Alabama ranks as the #1 conservative state in the nation. According to the survey, 50.6 percent of Alabama citizens identified themselves as being conservative, with only 14.6 percent identifying as liberals. Mathematically speaking, that factors out to be a 36 percent point, or more than 3-1, advantage for conservatives. Unless you live in a neighborhood full of college professors, the odds are that every other person you will meet on a daily basis in Alabama is a conservative and only 1 out of 15 will be a liberal.
If you ask the average Alabamian where they stand on issues they will be to the right of just about other state on just about every issue. Alabama Republican legislators have certainly taken note of this and have crafted a legislative agenda that reflects state values, including legislation that is in direct opposition to mandates from the Obama Administration.
In the 2013 Legislative Session, Republican legislators are set to introduce legislation that could be classified as “red meat” for conservatives. For instance, there will be legislation introduced that is in direct opposition to the Obama Administration’s efforts to impose new gun control measures and that protects the 2nd Amendment rights of Alabama citizens.
After failing to pass any pro-life legislation of substance in the last legislative session, Republican legislators will introduce a bill to protect women from injury and possibly death, by requiring every abortion clinic to have direct physician involvement and set mandatory standards for nursing care and post-procedure follow-up. It is interesting that on the issue of abortion, national polls show that the majority of Americans now identify themselves as pro-life. Yet in Alabama, even with a Republican supermajority in both chambers of the Legislature, it has been surprisingly and disappointingly difficult to pass substantive legislation to protect life. It appears that is about to change in this legislative session.
Republican legislators are also standing up for religious liberty. Legislation has been introduced to protect the religious liberty of every Alabama business owner by allowing certain employers to opt out of the mandates in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that require employers to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives and abortion-inducing agents.
While these “red meat” issues will appeal to Alabama conservatives, Republican legislators need to aggressively pursue other issues so that this session will be defined by what the Republican legislators are for, rather than only by what they oppose. To that end, they are introducing legislation that will give local school boards more flexibility to make decisions that improve education within their district. This legislation, which is adamantly opposed by the Alabama Education Association (AEA) which is the state teacher’s union, acknowledges that top-down decision is often not as effective for improving education outcomes as is decision-making at the local level.
After getting pressured by the AEA into failing to even consider a good charter school bill in the last legislative session, this legislation will be a test of the Republican legislators’ resolve to stand up to the AEA.
There is also legislation being introduced to begin the process of making Alabama state government more efficient and less wasteful. Senate President Pro-tem Del Marsh has worked for two years to develop a plan to reorganize Alabama’s public safety agencies. Currently, there are five public safety agencies that Sen. Marsh is working to consolidate which will produce an estimated savings of over $30 million per year for the state’s General Fund.
These are some of the key issues that will be addressed in the 2013 Legislative Session. There are other issues that are not part of the Republican’s published legislative agenda that Alabama conservatives expect them to pursue in this session. With the continued expansion of the Tea Party, other conservative groups, improved use of social media and other low-cost Internet communication, these groups fully intend to keep Alabama’s rank as the most conservative state in the nation. And, they expect that ranking to be reflected by their elected representatives.
Alabama conservatives are better educated and better organized than ever before which should provide even more incentive for the Republican supermajority in the State Legislature to pursue much needed reforms that will help make sure that Alabama remains #1. And that is the ranking that matters.