Phil Williams: If Santa was a statesman; the legislative wish list

1819 News |
PHIL WILLIAMS OPINION

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I’m going to say something, but don’t let it freak you out.

Are you ready?

There are only 35 shopping days left between now and Christmas!

I fully suspect that some of you just groaned out loud while others of you smugly take pride in having finished your shopping back in July. I’ve still got work to do myself, but hey - it wouldn’t be the same without the final flurry!

At my house, we’re at a different place now. The kids are grown and grandkids are becoming part of the Christmas scene and I’m all for it.

I have great memories of being a kid at Christmas. Like many of you, I would find myself lying awake expectantly on Christmas Eve. One year I know that I heard something on the roof and was sure it had to be reindeer. Christmas morning brought GI Joes, Hot Wheels, BB Guns, and a handwritten note from Santa Claus thanking my brother and me for the cookies. My grandparents always had a tree with those shimmery metallic icicles on it. My other grandparents in Birmingham would always have the grandkids go through the Sears Christmas Wishbook and mark a few things so that they would know what we wanted.

When Charlene and I became parents we formed our own traditions - a blend of hers, mine and ours. When our kids were young I would wake them up by candlelight and they would have to walk down the hall in the dark house with just the glow of the candle and the lights of the Christmas tree. It made everything seem more magical but it probably drove them crazy too, since I made them walk slow so Charlene could get a few pictures as we came down the hall. Wonderful memories indeed.

But back to the shopping list thing. It got me thinking: What if I could put together a Christmas list to give to our Alabama state legislators? What wondrous things would we all like to see under the legislative tree? The House and Senate go into session in January and, truthfully, we have no idea what they will do. No plan or cohesive agenda has yet been presented. So let me just take this moment to put a wish list together just in case Santa Claus is a statesman this year.

First off, a good old-fashioned, no-holds-barred tax cut. Yes, a tax cut! The legislature has been very proud of the fact that they’ve amassed a sizeable amount of tax dollars in the past few years; record surpluses funded by record revenues. They’ve even cooked up a few more with medical marijuana taxes and the like. At what point do they have enough? Perhaps, just perhaps, it’s time to give some of it back.

So first on the Christmas list is a noticeable tax cut that benefits all Alabamians.

Secondly, wouldn’t it be amazing to see meaningful school choice legislation? I mean really and truly to see actual legislation that does something to allow for parents to move their child from any public school to another public school simply because they felt it was best for their child? After all, those tax dollars we all pay for education that have resulted in the largest budgets ever are for the education of the children of this state and not to simply feed the system that ranks last in the country. Since we’re 50th in the nation, shouldn’t we try to work the issues from the perspective of doing something new and tangible?

The short answer is “yes” – which places school choice high on the Christmas wish list.

Next on the legislative Christmas list is a simple bill; one that almost saw the light of day in early 2021 until members of the House cowed to the Governors’ wishes. It would be a bill that would simply say that the duly elected separate and unique legislative branch of government would finally have the ability to call themselves into session without waiting on the executive branch to call first. This past year, as we endured the world of COVID; we needed legislative action and yet the Governor would not call them in. But just a few weeks ago she did call for a separate purpose, but fortunately, the legislature had the brass to add anti-vaccine mandate bills to the special session of their own accord. But even still they could not have done so if the executive branch had not first authorized them to convene. That is not co-equal.

A sharing of power is definitely on the Christmas list.

While I’m on the world of COVID, I have the sense that no one (and I mean no one) ever realized that the State Health Officer is an unappointed and unaccountable individual. It would be an amazing thing to see the legislature revise the state code such that the State Health Officer would have to be someone who would first be appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. No more edicts and business shutdowns without accountability. Gift wrap that one in some bright happy paper, please!

When all is said and done, I hope that the state legislature realizes that they’ve got some trust to rebuild after some of what has happened these past three years. Wouldn’t it be amazing for them to present the state with a Christmas shopping list like this?

I hope that Santa is a statesman this year.

Phil Williams is a former State Senator, retired Army Colonel and combat veteran, and a practicing Attorney. He has served with the leadership of the Alabama Policy Institute and currently hosts Rightside Radio M-F 2-5pm on WVNN. His column appears every Monday in 1819 News. To contact Phil or request him for a speaking engagement go to www.rightsideradio.org The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com.