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How can Alabama citizens be satisfied with state’s growth?

Austin Gaddis

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Hope for true societal growth, economic prosperity and cultural progress seem to be goals long forgotten in Alabama, thwarted on a seemingly constant basis by hyper-partisan leaders with a levee on the tide of evolution for the Heart of Dixie.

Recently, the national spotlight has been cast on Alabama in response to the state adopting the nation’s toughest immigration law, highlighting a vicious legislature on an impassioned witch hunt, and a timid governor too weak to stand in its way.

All the while, our economy gravely suffers the consequences of a widespread crackdown during a fragile – if not fantasy – recovery period. Yet again, Alabama repeats its perpetual cycle of being late to the party and always being three steps behind the status quo.

If you were to ask Alabamians, however, how they perceive the state and its progress, you might get a resoundingly different impression than what data and studies show to be true.

A recent poll conducted by the Capital Survey Research Center, the polling arm of the Alabama Education Association, asked Alabamians to rate their satisfaction with the legislature, Governor Robert Bentley, the state economy, and the general direction of Alabama. The results of the survey are simply shocking.

The Alabama State Legislature has certainly made its mark on state and national dialogue since 2010’s first Republican takeover in 136 years. With control of the House, Senate and governor’s office, Republicans have successfully stifled their opposition and enjoy a rubber stamp on legislation all the way from conception to the governor’s signature.

This absence of checks and balances leaves little question as to how Draconian pieces of legislation like the Hammond-Beason Alabama Taxpayer & Citizen Protection Act – commonly known as HB56 – pass through the halls of Montgomery with ease.

Yet with all of the controversy, shame and national embarrassment that the Legislature has brought on Alabama, voters are satisfied. The poll found that 55.6 percent of respondents said they were either very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with the Legislature. By contrast, only 16.1 percent said they were very disappointed.

There is one major factor to always consider: The Legislature’s achievements would not have been possible without the unquestioned and unequivocal support of the governor’s office.

Quite simply, Governor Bentley has failed the people of Alabama. Instead of focusing on the electorate and programs to stimulate the economy, Bentley stands as a trampled doormat for the power-hungry Legislature.

After Bentley expressed he had several concerns with harsh new provisions in Beason’s updated bill and submitted his own changes, not one legislator would take it to the floor. In a response perfectly indicative of the circus his administration has become to the Legislature, Bentley conceded and signed the bill.

Bentley’s priorities are obviously out of sync with Alabama. Yet, Alabama voters are satisfied – even more with Bentley than the Legislature. The poll found 64.3 percent of voters being very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with Bentley’s job performance.

Meanwhile, Alabama suffers.

State economists found that in order for the unemployment rate to go down by just one percent, Alabama would have to create around 22,000 jobs every month. As of May, Alabama had only created about 1,300 jobs per month.

We still have a tremendous amount of work to do to stimulate our economy; however, Alabama voters are satisfied. The poll found that 61.1 percent of voters felt the economy was very good or somewhat good for themselves and their families.

This week, the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down most of Arizona’s immigration law, which was less intense than HB56, served as an ominous precursor to the fate of the law in Alabama. As a result, the countless hours and tax dollars spent debating, legislating and mulling over the law has been a waste, and Alabama is again left in the dust with yet another scarlet letter.

The clear disconnect between the public’s positive perception of Alabama’s progress and the hard, evident truth that we’re failing is a problem that should never be ignored. We cannot continue to be content with the unending mediocrity that has plagued our beloved state for so long.

With this, Alabama’s most important question becomes: how can we be satisfied? If we desire true growth, prosperity and progress, we certainly have our work cut out for us.

Austin Gaddis is a senior columnist majoring in communication studies and public relations.

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How can Alabama citizens be satisfied with state’s growth?