Deliberately ignoring the criteria set by the Trump White House that said reopening shouldn’t occur until there’s been at least a 14-day decline in new COVID-19 cases, Alabama Republicans decided to recklessly rush ahead to resume the legislative session to pass a state budget. It was so gosh darn important that despite growing infection rates and casualties throughout Alabama, they just had to do their jobs and get it done right this very minute.
Well, that’s their big talking point anyway. Except, that’s not their real agenda.
We’ll get to their switch-and-bait agenda in a moment, but it’s worth noting that as we speak, there are reports that the husband of an Alabama Republican staffer was diagnosed with Coronavirus late last week. That’s significant because apparently the staffer decided to ignore the implications of that and go to the Montgomery State House for the reopening of the legislative session. Currently, the situation is being investigated, but, if true, it speaks to the stupidity of recklessly reopening the legislature in a dangerous environment where social distancing is virtually impossible.
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Furthermore, there’s no guarantee that all legislators or their staffers or the State House employees are being tested. A temperature check isn’t going to tell you if a legislator or staffer is an asymptomatic carrier. It’s doubtful that many are even wearing masks when there’s not a camera around, because somehow that has also become a politically divisive issue.
It’s also being said that the staffer in question doesn’t really take the virus all that seriously because of his or her blind allegiance to Trump’s politicization of the crisis. For the record, this story is emerging and there hasn’t been enough time to verify many of the details, but you can count on the fact that more is sure to come. However, that misses the bigger point which is that the risks of prematurely reconvening the legislature far outweighs any benefits, especially if it means needlessly putting others in harm’s way.
That is, of course, if passing a budget based on wild guesses on tax revenue that won’t be received until July 15th is the main reason for reconvening during a pandemic while new hot spots are emerging daily throughout the state.
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Alabama Republicans had a far more insidious agenda.
The rush to pass a budget was their cover story for trying to get other bills rammed through, which they *wink wink* pinky swore they wouldn’t do. Like AL Sen. Arthur Orr’s horrible bill, SB330, that would take legal rights away from workers who catch the virus because they are being forced to work in dangerous conditions due to their employer’s incompetence or negligence. Another proposed bill would have curtailed the Governor’s ability to declare a public health emergency by requiring legislative approval after 14 days.
They changed their tune quickly once their real agenda became public, thanks to some good reporting and opinion in the press from folks like al.com’s Kyle Whitmire. But, it shows where their unscrupulous priorities are, and, based on their shameful history of shenanigans, that more backroom shadiness is undoubtedly on the way.
Perhaps, the most disturbing thing is how they’ve collectively turned sensible things like social distancing and mask-wearing into a political frenzy for their base. For example, they think packed church services are a genius idea in the midst of a pandemic, regardless of how many people that might endanger or kill. Bless their hearts. They’ve mischaracterized appropriate government response to the crisis as a personal affront to their freedom and liberty. AL Congressman Mo Brooks hasn’t stopped blathering about it since someone put a microphone in front of his face.
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It’s simply a garbage argument and they know it. Their sacred right to get a haircut or go to Joe’s bar doesn’t simultaneously give them the right to potentially spread a highly contagious, deadly virus to the general public, especially while cases are spiking and widespread testing isn’t even available.
In Montgomery, while many Democrats have chosen to wisely stay home, Republicans have decided that they’re just fine with the idea of being a danger to themselves and others. The danger they pose is more than just their refusal to acknowledge the science regarding the virus, it’s their poison-pill agenda that puts the greedy interests of big business and the wealthy before the people they were elected to represent.
It’s going to be very interesting in about two weeks to see if AL Republicans still think that prematurely convening the legislature was worth it.
Clete Wetli | May 7, 2020 www.bamapolitics.com
Clete Wetli is former Chair of the Madison County Democrats and a liberal political activist.