Friday, January 06, 2006

Once more with the four words

Republican members of the Alabama House unveiled their 2006 legislative agenda Thursday, with no real surprises on the list. Among the bills they plan to push are a ban on annual property reappraisals -- a program that Gov. Bob Riley's administration instituted in 2003 -- and a plan to give liability insurance to all of the state's public school teachers.

Another measure the GOP is seeking would allow prosecutors to file homicide charges against anyone who, with the corresponding level of criminal culpability, causes the death of an "'unborn child' at any stage of development, from conception to birth." House Minority Leader Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, said the bill wouldn't outlaw abortion but would apply only in situations such as the murder of a pregnant woman. Regardless, it's sure to be controversial unless it's worded precisely.

Republican legislators also are pushing bills on two of their bread-and-butter issues: taxes and illegal immigration. On taxes, the GOP will propose a constitutional amendment to forbid any tax increase that doesn't receive at least a three-fifths majority in both chambers. It's the kind of anti-tax measure that's sure to play well in an election year.

On immigration, Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, is drafting a legislative package that would sanction illegal immigrants and their employers. From a practical standpoint, penalties against the immigrants themselves probably wouldn't have much deterrent effect as long as they can continue to find American jobs that pay more than Mexican jobs. If you're serious about trying to stem the tide of illegal immigration, the employers who provide the incentives to immigrate in the first place are the better targets.

Bear in mind through all of this discussion that Republicans are in the minority, so at least some Democratic support will be essential for any of these proposals to become a reality. And as to that potential, again come the magic words: It's an election year.

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