Last night's meltdown in the Alabama Legislature over the School Flexibility Act has been chronicled exhaustively by the media this morning. But the descriptions of the GOP super-majority's breathtaking arrogance and antipathy towards the Alabama Education Association leaves out an important piece of recent political history.
Here's a sampling of coverage of yesterday's events:
- Amid Screaming, Legislature Passes Controversial School Flexibility Bill
- Alabama Political Reporter offers a step-by-step account.
- Republican Bombshell Move on Tax Credits
- School Flexibility Bill Triples In Size In Committee
This is happening now because the Republican super-majority in the Legislature sees no need for compromise and listens to nothing outside its own echo chamber. Governor Robert Bentley just goes along for the ride. He really has no choice because Alabama's governor has almost no real power over the Legislature. There's no “separate but equal” power between the executive and legislative branches. The Legislature holds most of the cards while the Governor gets to attend ribbon cuttings, hold press conferences, and rubber stamp legislation that hits his desk.
There's really no point in the Governor vetoing anything because the Legislature has the power to over-ride vetoes with a simple majority vote. And they do. Just last term, the Legislature over-rode Bentley's veto of the Dial/Laird Slush Fund Bill.
So last night, we had the spectacle of Bentley, Hubbard, & Marsh grinning like possums and taking a victory lap on the so-called “Alabama Accountability Act.”
The AEA is furious. Executive Secretary Henry Mabry flatly stated: “The Governor lied to us.“
The education group has reason to be furious because it backed Bentley over Bradley Byrne in the 2010 GOP runoff.
Working through back channels with Bentley’s campaign, the AEA pummeled Byrne with a barrage of attack ads and automated phone calls, according to e-mails and telephone records obtained by the Press-Register.
It wasn't just robocalls. AEA ran a slew of negative ads against Byrne, who, Hubbert said “threatened to burn our house down.” Once the major parties had their candidates selected – Sparks & Bentley – then-AEA Executive Secretary Paul Hubbert made this announcement:
Alabama political kingmaker Paul Hubbert said he’s staying out of the 2010 governor’s race now that there are two candidates he believes will be friendly to education.
Hubbert, executive secretary of the powerful Alabama Education Association, almost single-handedly defeated Republican gubernatorial frontrunner Bradley Byrne with a series of third-party ads.
In an interview last week, Hubbert said either Bentley or Sparks is acceptable to the AEA or at least will listen to AEA concerns.
You have to wonder how AEA feels now. Byrne did pick a fight with AEA, but he also hailed from the “business wing” of the Alabama GOP. That's a group with little love for the social conservatives pushing the Legislature to drop Common Core standards, outlaw abortion and most forms of hormonal birth control, and remove employer's ability to ban firearms on their own property.
A Governor Bradley Byrne might not be able to stop it, but would he be as complicit in the effort as Governor Bentley?
We'll never know that for sure, but one thing is clear: GOP super-majority is intent on “burning down” AEA's house. And Hubbert handed the current governor a big box of matches when it helped him win the GOP primary.
In hindsight, it looks like a very bad return on investment.