Thursday, June 14, 2007

Senate again feathers its own nest

A great editorial in today's Montgomery Advertiser about SR97 to provide free health insurance to members of the senate. If I didn't know better I'd swear they were reading my blog. With all the constituent feather-plucking going on in the house and senate my ass is starting to feel rather bare. Thanks MA for highlighting this issue for your readers!

Montgomery Advertiser

Alabama state senators, who started out the 2007 regular legislative session by feathering their own nest at the expense of state taxpayers, ended the session on the same note.

In the helter-skelter of the last hours of the session, senators passed a resolution on a voice vote that could clear the way for members of the state Senate to qualify for free health insurance at the expense of Alabama taxpayers.

Legislators started the session by giving themselves a 61 percent pay increase, a fact that we hope the state's taxpayers will not forget until the next legislative elections in three years.

Not only was the resolution passed without a recorded vote, but it deliberately was written in language designed to hide its real purpose. The resolution states, "Senators shall be treated as are all state employees receiving health insurance under the program."

That sounds innocuous enough. But state employees get free health insurance, and pay much lower rates for family coverage than almost all Alabama taxpayers who earn their living working in the private sector. State employees currently pay nothing for single coverage and $180 per month for family coverage.

The sponsor of the resolution, Sen. E.B. McClain, D-Midfield, defended it by telling the Associated Press, "Basically, legislators are state employees."

But basically, they're not. They don't work full time, like most state employees. And the Alabama Constitution doesn't treat legislators like state employees in most cases.

Since the resolution only mentioned senators and did not pass the Alabama House of Representatives, House members won't be affected. But if this attempt to get taxpayer-subsidized health insurance for senators holds up, you can bet that the House will use it as an excuse to get the same benefit for themselves.

The pay increase and the insurance scheme would be indefensible in any legislative session, but they are particularly smelly coming in the session that just ended -- a session in which the Senate in particular spent most of its time in petty bickering.

Since voters upset about this little insurance scam cannot hold any particular legislators responsible for it because of the unrecorded vote, we suggest they hold all senators responsible, but especially the Senate leadership.

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