Should Montgomery be the new Washington?


If there was ever any doubt about how politicians in Alabama feel about the federal government, just look at some of their campaign ads. During this past election, Alabama politicians spent millions of dollars on ads about how they would stand up to Washington and “fight Obama”. The phrase “federal overreach” is about as common now as hearing “Sweet Home Alabama” at an Alabama or Auburn football game.

But these same politicians who routinely blast the federal government are more than happy to accept millions from the federal government every single year, then they come to Montgomery and behave the exact same way that they criticize the politicians in Washington for.

For example, after all that campaign rhetoric about standing up to Washington, last week it was announced that the state would receive $17.5 million in federal grants for preschools. Now I don’t have a problem with the state taking money from the federal government. After all, that money is our tax dollars! But to those politicians I say: Don’t sit there and tell me about how you are going to stand up to Washington and then turn around and take all this federal money. Be consistent.

As of 2012, for every dollar we pay in federal taxes, the state receives $2.03 back. The truth is our state government is relying on the federal government to keep us from going under. And all these politicians are biting the hand that feeds them.

They want to vilify Washington because that’s easy to do, but they don’t want to turn away all that money. Instead of being upfront with the voters, the politicians in Montgomery want to have their cake and eat it, too, complaining about “federal overreach” all the way to the bank.

State leaders see a huge problem with federal overreach but what about state overreach with the counties? The state government overpowers the local governments on a regular basis. How many times have we had to vote statewide on a constitutional amendment that only affected one county or city?

And since every local bill that comes through the legislature has to have the entire local delegation sign off on it, instead of just having an up or down vote, many times passing a local bill is difficult.

For example, passing a bill to let the voters in Gadsden decide on Sunday sales of alcohol required every member of our delegation to sign off on the bill, which caused a delay in getting Sunday sales on the actual ballot. We almost could not even bring the bill up for a vote in the legislature, let alone allow the people it would affect to actually vote on it, because members of our legislative delegation made city elected leaders jump through multiple hoops before they were willing to sign the bill out of committee.

Sunday Sales is not the only example, or even the only recent example from Etowah County.  We had similar issues come up when I introduced legislation creating the authority that is looking into bringing a sports complex to Etowah County.

Why should any county have to suffer or be denied the right to vote on an issue because of one politician who may not even represent the area but who is fighting the bill? 

And another example of Montgomery’s overreach happened when they passed the Accountability Act. Legislators went behind closed doors and amended the original bill to include millions of dollars in new expenditures-which is why a state court ruled the Accountability Act unconstitutional. Regardless of whether you support the policy, no one can support the way in which this law was passed, and it is another clear example of Montgomery politicians behaving the same way the politicians in Washington do.

The politicians in Montgomery like to spend a lot of time complaining about the federal government. But they don’t hesitate to take millions of dollars in federal funding, and then they come to Montgomery and behave the exact same way the politicians in Washington do.

In Matthew 7:5 and in Luke 6:42, Jesus says before we can “remove the speck” from someone else’s eye we must first “take the log out of [our] own eye.” Maybe instead of trying to fight Washington from Montgomery, these politicians should first fight Montgomery from Montgomery.

Rep. Craig Ford is a Democrat from Gadsden and the Minority Leader in the Alabama House of Representatives.

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