As we all know, when politicians are running for office they tend to make promises that are difficult, and sometimes impossible, to keep. Promises to cut spending and reform social programs are often made and rarely kept. Sometimes, politicians make promises that they never intended to keep in the first place.
In Alabama, the tide is turning and this time the tide is turning in politics. We have seen our politicians who ran on a platform of good government arrive in Montgomery and follow through on their promises. We have seen them reform our education system to ensure that children receive the best education possible. We heard promises from Governor Bentley to turn our economy around and we are starting to see more businesses and jobs be ushered into the state of Alabama.
This week, we have seen our state legislature pass bills reforming the way that our welfare system works in Alabama. Senator Arthur Orr and Senator Trip Pittman, along with their House colleagues Representative Kerry Rich and Representative Jim Patterson have been pushing bills to reform the welfare programs in the state of Alabama. These bills are intended to protect the taxpayers who fun the programs and to make sure that the taxpayer’s money that is used for needy families is used on necessities for those families.
>>>The first bill is Senate Bill 7, sponsored by Arthur Orr in the Senate and Jim Patterson in the House. The premise behind the bill is a simple, yet principled one. The bill simply prohibits the spending of welfare benefits, specifically Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), on liquor, tobacco, casinos and strip clubs. As late as July of 2012, 10 states had passed similar laws.
Senator Orr’s bill seems like a no-brainer to most. Hard-working Alabamians who pay taxes that support programs like TANF expect that the money will be put to a good use. However, in some cases, irresponsible individuals have wasted those dollars and ignored the needs of their families. This bill not only protects the taxpayers who fund the programs, but it also protects the families, specifically children, who are in need.
Senate Bill 191, sponsored by Trip Pittman in the Senate and Kerry Rich in the House, presents another very principled law – drug testing of welfare recipients who have drug convictions in their past. This is a proposal that has been spoken about nationwide and actually implemented, on some level, in several states.
The Alabama version of the bill is different than laws in place in states like Florida, because it aims to simply drug test TANF recipients who have recorded drug abuse in their past, rather than the entire universe of TANF recipients. The bill is meant to identify drug users on welfare for two reasons.
The first reason is to protect the trust of the taxpayers, to make sure that the welfare benefits are used for needs and not given to support someone’s addiction. The second reason is to identify people who are on drugs, in order to help them break their addiction to substances.
These bills are especially important because they aim to protect the integrity of the programs that are currently in place, as well as to encourage behavior in recipients that will take themselves off of welfare permanently. Remember Ronald Reagan’s quote, “We should measure welfare’s success by how many people leave welfare, not by how many are added.”
Both bills have passed through the Senate and are pending action in the house.
We would like to extend congratulations to Senators Orr and Pittman, as well as their colleagues; and thank Representatives Patterson and Rich for their work in the House. Passage of both of these bills will have two good outcomes: reduce the waste of taxpayer’s money and reducing drug abuse in Alabama. Another promise made by our Republican leadership kept.