Believe it or not, we are approaching the fourth year of this legislative quadrennium. The Legislature will meet early next year because it is an election year. All 140 seats in the House and Senate are up for election in 2014.
These legislators were elected in 2010. Most of them are Republicans. The GOP owns a twoto one super majority in both the House and Senate. These folks are not just Republicans in name only, sometimes referred to as “RINOs.” They are real Republicans.
They are conservative to say the least. They have placed an indelible conservative stamp on state government and public policy on both social and economic fronts. They have addressed abortion, immigration, gun rights, tort reform, and a litany of other hot topics and placed a reactionary result to all of these hallmark philosophical issues.
They have budgeted state dollars prudently and cut teachers’ and state employees’ incomes in the process. By virtue of their attack on public employees, they have essentially emasculated the once vaunted teachers’ union, AEA. They have systematically dismantled this organization in a Machiavellian approach that has not only removed their power over the state’s education policy and dollars but has pretty much rendered them hapless in the legislative arena.
My guess is that most Alabamians approve of this GOP group’s quest to make us the most right-wing state in the union. However, this trend has been prevalent throughout the country. After the 2010 elections, most states in the country moved into one corner or the other. They either became extremely conservative or extremely liberal. In 37 states, one party now controls both the Statehouse and Governor’s office. That is the most in 60 years. Both parties have used that omnipotent power to make sweeping changes on a myriad of major issues. Indeed, in the avalanche of action, the high profile issues of guns, immigrants, taxes, elections and gay marriage have been dealt with.
They have gone in divergent directions based on the party with the super majority. They have worked with a vengeance in most of these states to stake their claims. The Democrats have forged to the left and Republicans have marched to the right with both sides striving to go as far left or as far right with focus and expediency.
The two best examples of extremity are Colorado versus North Carolina. Colorado went all Democratic. They enacted total gun control, allowed free driver’s licenses and instate tuition for illegal immigrants, voted for gay marriage, and chose to embrace Obama- Care by expanding Medicaid.
In contrast, North Carolina Republicans took control of the Legislature and the Governor’s office for the first time since 1870. The GOP in the Tarheel state has put a conservative stamp on education, tax policy, unemployment benefits, and a range of social issues similar to Alabama’s agenda.
This one-party control in 37 states has drowned out minority party voices much like what has happened in Alabama. The party in power has stood united and enacted almost anything they pleased and run roughshod over the minority party. Essentially, red states have turned redder and blue states have turned bluer and fewer states are purple.
In many cases partisan redistricting has driven this one-party domination. This gerrymandering has created super majorities in these 37 states that are two to three or even four to one. There are now only five states with split legislatures. They are Iowa, Kentucky, New Hampshire, New York, and Washington. In 22 states one party enjoys a vote proof majority in both chambers. We are one of those states.
Perhaps no issue better illustrates the philosophical divergence more than gun control. Joining Colorado, three other majority Democratic state legislatures – New York, Connecticut, and Maryland – tightened gun control laws. At the same time, more than a dozen GOP-dominated states basically did away with gun control. They followed the NRA’s lead and gave carte blanche gun-carrying privileges to their citizens. Tennessee now permits gun owners to keep their guns in their cars, no matter where they park them. Wyoming voted to allow their judges to carry their guns into the courtroom.
As I said earlier, my belief is that the majority of Alabamians approve of our super- Republican majority and their conservative agenda. Therefore, my prediction is that our numbers will remain about the same after next year’s elections. We will probably see around a 70-to-35 GOP majority in the House and a 24- to-11 edge in the state Senate for the next decade. We will see. See you next week.