The Irony in Ethics
By Dr. Gregory T. Graves, AEA Associate Executive Secretary
Alabama’s Constitution of 1901 was ratified with several common sense protections built in to promote transparency in the legislative process. Section 61 states that no bill can be so amended through the legislative process that its original meaning changes, and Section 45 provides that bills can only have one subject. Apparently some of our elected representatives need to reread these sections.
Three weeks ago, arguments were held before Judge Eugene Reese in Montgomery concerning what many call the “switcheroo” in the passage of the Alabama Accountability Act. Any objective observer who sees a bill go from 9 to 27 pages will tell you that the original meaning of the bill was probably altered. Why else would it triple in size?
The state’s attorneys argued that it was the same bill even though it was much larger and added key provisions giving taxpayer dollars to private schools. We argued that the bill contained more than one subject: flexibility for schools and tax credits for private schools. The other side argued that it was an education bill and the only subject was education. By that logic, a bill could be enacted providing a pay raise to teachers while also creating charter schools. Since it’s an education bill it’s all one subject, right?
We have seen that the hypocrisy of Alabama’s anti-education legislators knows no bounds. Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh recently brought a weak Ethics bill to the Legislature designed to fix one small problem. Later, Senator Hank Sanders brought an amendment to this bill, which dealt with ethics and ethical conduct of public officials and their families on a larger scale than Marsh’s original bill. The amendment was not altering the original meaning and it focused on the same subject of the original bill: ethics. Based on the ensuing debate, you would have thought the amendment dealt with something completely different.
Senate Pro Tem Marsh argued that the amendment was not germane to the original ethics bill. Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey agreed and upheld Marsh’s challenge. However, her decision was overruled when a procedural vote in the Senate overturned it. How, you might ask, is an ethics amendment to an ethics bill not germane to the original ethics bill? The answer is hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy showed itself when Marsh said he was concerned that Senator Sanders’ additional ethics provisions could affect the constitutionality of his ethics bill, even though the amendment did not alter the bill’s original meaning and did not create another subject for the bill. This is outright hypocrisy because if ethics provisions are not germane to an ethics bill, then private school tax credits are most certainly not germane to a flexibility bill. I am speaking, of course, of the Alabama Accountability Act. What was originally a bill promoting flexibility in schools was transformed into a much longer bill that allowed private schools to receive tax credits. That, ladies and gentlemen, is not germane. It is simply another example of the mess that this group of anti-education legislators has caused.
When it suits the anti-education legislators they will argue until they are blue in the face that apples and oranges are the same fruit because they are both round. But they will then turn around and say Granny Smith and McIntosh apples are completely different fruit. This is hypocrisy.
I would ask that you remember this hypocrisy later this year and vote for pro-education legislators instead of the anti-education legislators who talk out of both sides of their mouth. Only by holding our legislators accountable can we improve education in Alabama.
As always, together we stand.
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