Often times the things that appear simple to do and make the most sense are the toughest to get accomplished and there’s no better example than in the Alabama Legislature.
It isn’t any wonder that almost a dozen legislators, a governor and a sitting chief justice have been indicted, convicted or removed from office in just the last couple of years. Alabama elected officials mimic the fox guarding the hen house and more often than not they devour the hens.
Unfortunately, it is pretty easy to legally purchase a sitting legislator if you have the means to do so. Take for instance former Rep. Oliver Robinson, who we learned during the recent corruption trial in Birmingham had been receiving ‘six figures’ from Regions Bank for ‘consulting,’ while serving in the legislature. Coincidentally before his resignation, Robinson sat on the House Financial Services Committee, which deals with banking and lending legislation. Robinson testified Regions never asked anything of him, but somehow I don’t imagine Robinson ever considered anything other than what benefited his ‘consulting’ client, as opposed to what benefited his constituency.
State Senator Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills), who has served in the legislature for half a century, has 11 consulting contracts with various businesses that pay him hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, but current laws don’t even require him to tell us who is paying him or exactly how much for his ‘consulting’ services.
And I could go on and on with examples of legislators who have financially benefited by serving in this part-time public service position. And it is often legal by keeping it simple with just winks and nods.
Every elected official should be in favor of the strongest of ethics laws, yet somehow the legislature, the governor, the attorney general; all never find a way to get us there. And those occasional times when they do provide a dog and pony show as election time nears, we later learn the devil is in the details and they’ve fooled us again.
There ought to be a law requiring candidates to disclose every campaign donation received. Who would be against such a law? Insert laughing emoji.
All campaign contributions should be reported and available to the public. Our own attorney general and countless other elected officials are supported financially by who knows who because they even find ways to circumvent what current laws we do have that require disclosure and transparency.
There ought to be a law that requires political candidates to remove campaign signs from public property and right-of-ways after elections.
There ought to be a much stronger Open Meetings and Open Records Law.
There ought to be a law requiring political advertising to be truthful.
There ought to be a law requiring the inspection of dams.
Did you know there are more than 2,200 dams in Alabama and we are the ONLY state that does not require dams to be inspected? It isn’t a matter of if, but when a major dam will fail and potentially killing those in its path. But, I’m here to tell you that no such law will pass in my lifetime.
There ought to be a law preventing a child from riding in the back of a pickup truck on public streets. It makes absolutely no sense, considering our current seat belt laws. But, believe it or not, there are some lobbying interests, with big wallets, that don’t want such a law to exist. And so it doesn’t.
And finally, there ought to be a law that Chick-fil-A is open on Sundays. But, somethings can’t be legislated.
In a perfect world, all politicians would be required to embark down the Yellow Brick Road. In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy meets and befriends the Scarecrow, who wants a brain, the Tin Woodman, who desires a heart, and the Cowardly Lion, who is in need of courage. All characteristics found lacking by many Alabama politicians.
But, what I desire most from decision makers is character. Because character is determined by how you treat those who can do nothing for you. And it’s something that should be exemplified by everyone elected to public office.