Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1460: The squeeze of reality

  The squeeze of reality is so powerful. It moves us when we refuse to be moved. It dissipates expectations, hopes and prayers. It changes our reality. As the 2015 regular legislative session moves to a close, the squeeze of reality is forcing itself upon every legislator, every lobbyist, many organizations and countless citizens. The squeeze of reality is so powerful.        

  Many of us commenced this legislative session with strong expectations, billowing hopes and swarming prayers. We expected to pass or prevent the passage of various legislation. Some of us didn’t expect, but we did hope. Some of us knew we had just a wing and a prayer. Many of these expectations, hopes and prayers were not rewarded. Our expectations were squeezed into hopes, and our hopes were squeezed into prayers, and our prayers were squeezed into non-existence. The squeeze of reality is so powerful.

  Let us examine just a few of these expectations, hopes and prayers. Governor Robert Bentley expected to secure new revenue of approximately $750 million for the General Fund budget. The squeeze of reality immediately reduced these expectations to $550 million. Then the expectations were reduced to $225 million. Then there were just hopes. As the session draws to a close, these expectations have been reduced to prayers buffeted on the winds of time. The squeeze of reality is so powerful.

  Proponents of casinos and a lottery expected some form of gambling to pass the Alabama Legislature this session. They expected the fiscal crisis in the General Fund Budget to drive legislators fearful of new taxes to grab gambling as a viable alternative. A proposal to place casinos at dog and/or horse tracks was widely discussed. So was a lottery. The Poarch Creek Indians would receive special consideration in a gaming compact.

  Early on, it appeared that House and Senate leadership were united on gaming. As the session progressed, House and Senate leaders seemed to move in different directions. The House leadership was rumored to favor a monopoly for Poarch Creek Indians. The squeeze of reality crushed strong expectations into shimmering hopes.

  A constitutional amendment for casinos and lotteries was finally introduced in the Alabama Senate. It came out the Tourism Committee on a 6-3 vote. So far, it has not been brought to the Senate Floor. It needs 21 votes to pass. However, the estimated number of votes it would receive is a measly 13. The expectations became hopes. The hopes became prayers. The prayers vanished. The squeeze of reality is so powerful.

  There were great expectations by some that Common Core (Alabama College and Career Ready Standards) would be repealed. I received many communications from citizens on both sides of the issue. I thought that Senate Bill 101 to repeal Common Core did not have a chance because it was bad education policy. However, the bill shot out of the Education Committee. Expectations of many ballooned while fears of others mushroomed.

  Last week the bill to repeal Common Core was placed on the Special Order for full Senate consideration. However, it was removed after strong opposition was expressed by a few Republican senators. I gather that a majority of the Senate would vote for the bill. However, the Republican super majority will have to run over some of its own members to pass the bill. The great expectations for Common Core became mere hopes. With every passing legislative day, these hopes were squeezed into long shot prayers. Last Thursday, even the prayers expired as time passed for passage of Senate bills died. The squeeze of reality is so powerful.

  I began the legislative session hoping that expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act would become a reality. It would do so much for Alabama: save an estimated three lives every two days; relieve the pain and suffering of tens of thousands; diminish fears of needed medical care for hundreds of thousands who have no health insurance; provide an estimated 30,000 jobs; save a dozen rural hospitals; provide millions in new revenue for a cash strapped state; and so much more. I never had expectations, but my hopes were considerable.

  Strictly speaking, this was not a legislative matter. The Alabama Legislature did not need to act because the governor can expand Medicaid by the stroke of his pen. However, Medicaid expansion was the number one goal of various legislative caucuses. It was certainly my number one goal. During a meeting between legislators and the governor, I said that I could not see any way I could vote for his tax package without implementation of Medicaid expansion. As the end of the session draws near, our hopes have become long shot prayers. The squeeze of reality is so powerful.

  Expectations, hopes and prayers spring eternal. There is a special session of the Alabama Legislature looming, and we will go through this rise and fall cycle once again.

EPILOGUE - We form expectations and hopes and prayers based upon our needs and desires. However, others also have their needs and desires. Their needs and desires alter our expectations, hopes and prayers. Also there are just circumstances that change things. All of these things forge the squeeze of reality.

  About the author: Hank Sanders represents Senate District 23 in the Alabama Legislature.

No comments:

Post a Comment