Mike voted left for right reasons

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 23, 2015

Much has been written about the current session of the Alabama Legislature, which is perhaps the most interesting one in recent memory.

So far, the two-year college system has been removed from the governance of the state Board of Education, and has a brand-new board directing it. The new board will hold its first meeting in the coming week.

The Education Trust Fund budget should gain final approval on Tuesday.

This week, the House gave final approve to the General Fund budget. The budget as approved has $200 million in cuts, which will affect law enforcement, mental health, Medicaid, corrections, state parks, conservation, and other areas.

We’ve known about the deficit for a long time. Gov. Robert Bentley proposed a tax package to correct the problem, but his plans weren’t even introduced in the legislature. Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard proposed new revenue that would have gotten the state closer to the dollars needed. He came publicly unglued when some members of his no-tax party voted against his measures in committee. That prompted a redo, and his people changed their votes.

But those measures never made it to the floor, as the Senate sent word they weren’t in the mood for taxes, and would not pass the proposals, even if Hubbard strong-armed the press into voting for them.

Meanwhile, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh has proposed a state lottery and the expansion of gambling as a means to cure what ails us. So far, the House isn’t on board.

When the General Fund budget was considered in the House, Mike Jones, who represents us, drew some ire from state GOP leaders when he voted against it.

The budget passed 66-36.

Technically, if he had voted with the majority – which expects its members to fall in lock-step, 67-35 wouldn’t have changed a thing.

After the vote, he said there was no way he could have voted for the bare-bones budget. He had a really good reason.

As chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Mike spent months leading up to this year’s session, and countless hours in session, working on the session’s landmark legislation, prison reform. Gov. Bentley signed the package into law on Thursday. The historic bill – which earned almost-unheard-of bipartisan support – is designed to ease the state’s prison overcrowding issue. If this issue is not resolved, the federal government has indicated it will take over the state prison system. Do not be fooled into thinking the feds would reform our prison system more economically than this bill does.

However, the bill sunsets in January – that is, goes away – if the changes are not funded. All of the work done to get us this far will be for naught without funding to implement the changes.

In the polarized, partisan world in which we live, it’s refreshing to see an elected official vote for the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.