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Can the Legislature Give Up Itself for Lent?

  |   By: Steven Boydstun     |   Opinion

Its Ash Wednesday folks! With the exception of Eastern Orthodox Christians (whose Lent began Monday) this day is observed throughout Christendom by Roman Catholics and many Protestant denominations alike, signifying the beginning of Lent 46 days before Easter.

With this comes the tradition of giving something up. Many people give up chocolate or sodas, or may regulate their social media and television use. The more ambitious among us may give up their preferred type of tobacco or alcohol. All of these are things that we have in our lives, but don’t necessarily need to survive. The point is to focus more on the things that really matter and less on those that do not.

Which leads me to, what I think, could be an excellent idea. The Alabama Legislature could give up the Legislature for Lent!

Now, I don’t mean to make light of what is a very solemn day, but just hear me out…

At the halfway mark, this session of the Alabama Legislature, like too many before it, has been reduced to a sideshow rather than carrying out the people’s business.

Sen. Bryan Taylor (R – Prattville) sponsored a bill to make harsher penalties for those whose clientele include some of Alabama’s most dangerous citizens – electronic bingo enthusiasts. He wants those who promote or conspire to promote gambling, as well as those who possess a gambling machine to be hit with a Class C felony, which carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years instead of the current misdemeanor.

Rep. Barry Moore (R – Enterprise) introduced a bill to “render null and void” parts of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). This is clearly election-year fodder as even a high school civics student would know the Supremacy Clause in the U.S. Constitution establishes that states cannot render federal law “null and void.”

For our Democratic blunder of the session, we have the ever-outspoken Rep. Alvin Holmes (D – Montgomery). During discussion on a bill regarding the State Board of Licensure for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors, Rep. Holmes took the opportunity to note that no African Americans were on the board. That’s a legitimate concern.

But, somehow, his discussion on that matter shifted to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Holmes called Justice Thomas an “Uncle Tom” and made mention of the fact Justice Thomas is married to a white woman. He further defended his position to Sean Hannity of Fox News by saying, “I think Justice Clarence Thomas on the United States Supreme Court is an Uncle Tom, a black man allowing himself to be used to carry the message of a white man, which is against the interest of black people in America. In my opinion, that’s an Uncle Tom.”

To play off Holmes’ now-famous quote, what’s wrong with the Justices we got?

He went even further, criticizing Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, a conservative African American Republican, saying he is only taking positions “white folks tell [him] to take.”

But Holmes didn’t stop there. Yesterday, March 4, Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin (R – Indian Springs) sponsored a bill in the House which will make abortions effectively impossible in Alabama (I won’t even go into the fact that this will surely be challenged and overturned in court if passed). She not only introduced a bill sure to fail, but went on to say that she hopes Roe v. Wade is overturned (not happening) and then compared her efforts to those who fought for racial integration of schools in Brown v. Board of Education.

Yes, because those are clearly the same things.

Enter Rep. Alvin Holmes stage left. Mr. Holmes said that white Republican lawmakers are hypocrites because they’re pro-life unless one of their daughters was to become pregnant by an African American man.

So much for Republican criticism of Democrats for being too politically correct.

And then there’s the pièce de résistance.

Rep. DuWayne Bridges (R-  Valley) introduced a bill to allow voters to decide by referendum if the Ten Commandments could be displayed in public buildings throughout the state.

This discussion featured some great quotes, such as Rep. Bridges’ own: “School shootings, patricide and matricide are due to the Ten Commandments not being displayed in schools and other government buildings.”

“’Love thy neighbor’ is one of the Ten Commandments.” –Rep. Bridges. (It’s not).

“The annotation ‘A.D.’ stands for ‘after death.’” – Rep. Bridges (It doesn’t).

Rep. Alvin Holmes said he was the only member of the House to abide by all of the Ten Commandments. He also said adultery “means having sex with someone you hadn’t got any business having sex with.”

And my personal favorite: “People who believe in Mohammed practice ‘Muslimism.’” – Rep. James Buskey (D – Mobile).

It’s astounding how our government officials so fervently defend placing the Ten Commandments in public view everywhere, yet seem to know so little about them.

While all this is happening, there is one job our legislature is supposed to do first before they discuss any other legislation: Pass a Budget.

Instead, they vote to override that requirement each time so that they can put off voting on the budget and take on important issues like those just mentioned.

The best thing the Legislature could do for Alabama and its people is to pass the budget, take care of the few odd issues that came up while they were out of session, take some measures to increase job growth and economic development, and go home.

You had one job legislature. One. Job.

So here we are. Lent A.D. 2014 — contrary to what Rep. Bridges said — stands for Anno Domini, Latin for “in the year of our Lord.” I would encourage everyone, Christian or not, to think about the things that really matter in our lives and what we can do to increase the things that do and decrease the things that do not.

And by all means remind your legislator of the same. Passing the general fund and education trust fund budgets are what their first priority should be, not finding new circus acts.

Follow Steven on Twitter at @skboydstun

Steven Boydstun holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science from Troy University (Troy) and a Master of Public Administration degree from The University of Alabama. Views expressed are his own and not necessarily those of his employer or any other affiliate.