As the 2017 regular session of the Alabama Legislature enters its homestretch, I felt it important to take a few moments and share my thoughts and observations on some of the pressing, high-profile issues that have recently faced the state.
We are all aware that Gov. Bentley resigned his office last week after it became apparent that more than enough votes for impeachment were lined up against him, and I, for one, was glad to see him step aside.
The legacy that he leaves behind is one of scandal, corruption, and abuse of power, and it offers a hard life lesson that every elected official in Alabama would be wise to observe and ensure they avoid.
An administration that began with great promise following landslide victories in both his election and re-election bids has ended in ruins. Any successes Bentley might have enjoyed in office will be overshadowed by the fact he is the first Alabama governor to have impeachment proceedings carried out against him and the only one to resign from the state’s highest office surrounded by scandal.
His actions, for which he has shown little to no remorse, have done great damage to our state’s image, its reputation, and it’s on-going economic development efforts. It is difficult for outsiders to look at Alabama with a straight face when national headlines have labeled our chief executive as the “Luv Guv.”
Because the citizens of Alabama deserved to know the truth about what occurred in his administration, I signed the impeachment resolution that initiated the proceedings against Bentley and ultimately pressured him to resign. The impeachment investigation and resulting report did a thorough job of detailing the facts, and providing you with the information you deserved.
I am confident that under the leadership of Gov. Ivey, Alabama can move past this difficult chapter in our history. We can repair our scarred prestige and convince potential industrial prospects that Alabama’s executive branch is no longer a circus spectacle. Together, we can restore our state pride and wipe the tarnish from the Capitol dome.
On another topic, some constituents have asked me about the nine-cents-a-gallon gas tax that recently failed on the House floor and where I stood on it. I opposed the gas tax for several reasons, some of which are rooted in my conservative philosophy and others are based in public policy concerns.
As a Ronald Reagan Republican, I have an ingrained aversion to implementing new taxes or raising existing ones, especially without a vote of the people, but I tried to put my anti-tax feelings aside in order to give the bill a fair and unbiased review.
The legislation that I read was fatally flawed and unworthy of support.
Rather than waiting for revenues from a gas tax to accrue, the bill called for floating a bond issue of up to $2.4 billion in order to begin immediate road construction, which, I assume, was meant to provide political cover to supporters of the tax.
Think about how long it would take to pay off a $2.4 billion bond issue and consider the fact that our roads would once again be in desperate need of repair long before that debt was even partially paid. Coupled with the fact that Alabama already has more than $5 billion in outstanding debts, I think the bond proposal was fiscally irresponsible.
In addition, I feel that the distribution formula for the road construction was unfair to areas like ours. While some counties would receive $100 million for road and bridge maintenance and construction, Jackson County would have received just $15 million - enough for only one mile of our roads in every four to be repaired. I was not willing to support a bad bill that our children and grandchildren would be paying on for many years to come.
In short, I think the bill taxed too much, gave our area too little, and was thrown together too quickly. There is no doubt, however, that our roads need attention, and this failed proposal may lead to a better, more sensible plan and I am optimistic about the near future.
The good news is that now that the clouds of impeachment and resignation have broken and sunlight is beginning to shine once again on our Capitol, the Legislature can fully focus on the problems that face us and work toward making Alabama’s state government as honest, efficient, and industrious as the citizens it seeks to serve.
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same. – Ronald Reagan
It is my honor to serve you in the State Legislature. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact my office.
Jackson County Legislative Delegation
100 E Peachtree Street
Scottsboro, AL. 35768