The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Sine Die

Cindi Branham

Sine Die is the term for closed, over, with no plans to reconvene, and that’s what the Legislature ended on May 9. Unless there’s a special session, sponsors of the Good, Bad or Ugly will have to wait for 2025 to stir things back up again… and to serve or disserve the people of Alabama.

Their mission is – and always has been – to govern in a way that serves the people of Alabama. But this Republican supermajority has never gotten the “all” part of their mission.

Every session, several “red meat” bills designed to stoke the hate-filled satisfaction of their base are introduced, and every session they pass some, to the detriment of our state’s image and economic viability, and some of the citizens of our state. Fortunately, some of their most egregious bills never come to a vote or passed one house and not the other.

The Good.

The Open Records Act requires state agencies to respond to requests for public records. This is a commitment to transparency and a big win for journalists, but for the public as well. Prior to this law, the average response time was 192 days – if an answer as given at all.

The “Working for Alabama” set of acts aimed at transforming Alabama’s workforce and getting more Alabamians trained for skilled, higher-paying jobs, streamlining Alabama’s economic development efforts and investing into Alabama communities, especially those in rural areas.

The Pro-IVF law, called a stop-gap that didn’t go far enough even by the governor, was passed in record time (3 weeks) to counteract the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling that, basically, IVF procedures didn’t protect all life. Many feel that it will take a constitutional amendment to completely cover the doctors, patients, institutions and goods providers with full protection.

Always a good thing: significant teacher pay raises were approved.

The Bad.

The Choose Act is designed to give parents state funding to send their kids to the school of their choice. In reality, a parent of limited income can’t cover the cost of a full year of private or parochial school with the voucher, so this may as well be dubbed “the subsidy give-away check for parents already sending their children to private school” act. Choice has not been accomplished, but legislation like this always takes away from the strength of (and potential for) our public school.

The “Parent’s Right to Know” law that will require K-12 teachers to up-load their class curriculum within 30 days of the start of every school year or the adoption of new or revised curriculum. This was a boon to helicopter parents who doubt teachers’ abilities over their own throughout the state. Teachers are leaving the profession in droves; we should be doing more to keep teachers teaching.

SB1 is now law that will make it a felony to give, or receive, a payment or gift “for distributing, ordering, requesting, collecting, completing, prefiling, obtaining, or delivering a voter’s absentee ballot application.” Alabama Republicans said the legislation is needed to combat voter fraud through “ballot harvesting,” a term defining collection of multiple absentee ballots. We can’t disagree with the “prefiling” part, but another view: it suppresses the actions of an underpaid class of citizens who must work and be paid for their time to keep food on their tables. Republicans know who they’re hurting: Students, the elderly and the disabled, who tend to vote Democratic.

The Ugly.

These new laws deserve to be in this category because they benefit only a small group of Alabamians, to the detriment of others.

The bill limiting the use of public funds for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs and limiting the ability of public employees to discuss so-called “divisive concepts.” (Will we ever understand why those voting for this bill didn’t see their actions as “divisive concepts.”)

The Ugly Runners-Up. These did not pass and shouldn’t have.

Ethics: HB227, (weakening) ethics laws pertaining to public officials and public employees. If you weren’t paying attention, as one of their first actions in 2011, the new supermajority kept their promise to tighten ethics laws governing themselves. The problem: they kept getting in trouble, even jail, because they were violating their own ethics laws. This bill didn’t pass.

Gambling: Once again, the legislature narrowly failed to pass any sort of gambling bill. We can argue the issue for days, but the bottom line is that people will gamble, and most of that revenue will go to neighboring states, to the detriment of Alabamians – especially children – who would be helped by keeping those billions of dollars within Alabama.

Pride Flags: a proposed bill would have prohibited displaying Pride flags on public school property, and Library Content: Librarians were threatened with felony arrest under the state obscenity law because of library content and programs. Not a good look for the state if you want to attract the best and the brightest, or even to keep your best and brightest.