We all complain about the bad things in the State. The Legislature is under the thumb of Paul Hubbert, and none of the reforms we need seem ever to come about. Revision to the tenure law, abolition of the DROP Program, changes in the retirement law, reform of the budgeting process, all of these and more cry out for action. Yet the Legislature has adjourned without acting on any of these.
Will somebody please do something! many will say. But seldom does anybody step forward and lead the charge. Well, I am tired of sitting around waiting for the arrival of a hero, and have decided to attempt a little something myself. I say "a little something" because I know that it is small measured against everything needed. We need a bulldozer to move a mountain of garbage, and I have only a broom.
Today (Wednesday, 26 May 04) my attorney has filed on my behalf in Montgomery County Circuit Court a complaint asking for declaratory and injunctive relief in the matter of the distribution of money from the Educational Trust Fund to members of the Legislature. This money, as you may well realize, is what is popularly, (and properly) known as "pork."
I am taking this action in concert with my friends in the Tax Accountability Coalition of Alabama, and this won't necessarily be the last initiative of this kind that we take. (The double-dipping teachers who are members of the Legislature, and draw two state checks, might be an attractive next target.)
The amount of the Pork Fund is $11.7 million, and the plan is to distribute it to individual representatives and senators, for their dispersal to their favorites in their districts. Thus some of our tax dollars that are in the Educational Trust Fund are being scooped up by the Legislature and given to themselves to be used in the purchase of votes in the next election.
This is all but unbelievable. Just months ago the education fund was in a deep crisis. Why, we might have to go to a four-day school week we were told. And we were also threatened with curtailment of school athletics. All this, of course, was political babble designed to coerce us into voting for the largest tax increase in our State's history.
But now-- now the Montgomery rogues have decided to help themselves to $11.7 million from the same education fund that they so recently assured us was in dire straits.
I object to this hypocritical, self-serving scheme of the Legislature for two fundamental reasons. First, it is wrong, and second, it is unconstitutional.
It is wrong because this $11.7 million should be used to fund the needs of the whole state education system, and should not be used by an individual legislator to curry favor with his constituents in order to perpetuate his incumbency.
It is unconstitutional because it violates the separation of powers doctrine explicitly embedded in the Alabama Constitution. In working this scheme the Legislature is blatantly assuming the powers of the Executive.
The legal argument is simple, and very strong. You can see it here in the Complaint.
This move is certain to arouse the ire of many of our friends in the Legislature, not necessarily excluding certain Republicans. So be it.
Incidentally, Governor Riley, in his capacity as Governor, is one of the defendants, together with other appropriate state officials. This is not, however, intended as a hostile motion toward the Governor. After all, it's his legitimate power that is being usurped by the Legislature, and this suit is aimed at returning that power to him.