He is not right when he says it is not a bad bill. It is, in fact, a bad bill, one that uses a sledgehammer to deal with a small problem and in the process has complicated life for hundreds of thousands of ordinary Alabama residents who want nothing more than to buy a car tag, enroll a child in school or get a job.
Gov. Bentley, speaking before the Birmingham Business Alliance earlier this week, said he wants the Legislature to simplify the state’s law.
“We’ve been doing this behind the scenes,” he said, partly because of the several lawsuits challenging the law and partly because he wants to be closer to the Legislature’s opening in February.
“I do believe we need to simplify this bill,” he said.
In Jefferson County, a perfect storm of courthouse closings and layoffs, a delay in getting an online renewal system up and running and the need to prove your immigration status has resulted in long lines snaking out the courthouse, and down the street as residents simply tried to renew their automobile tags. In North Alabama, crops have rotted in the fields as migrant workers, fearful of the new law, simply left. And all the talk about illegal immigrants taking jobs away from Alabama residents proved to be inaccurate. Growers couldn’t find employees anywhere to take the immigrants’ place doing the backbreaking work of harvesting tomatoes.
Gov. Bentley’s promised simplification won’t necessarily change the situation farmers are in.
“We are still not going to change the fact that you cannot hire people who are not legal in this country to work for you,” the governor told the assembled business leaders.
It looks as though the governor has some work to do within his own party to tweak this bill. House Speaker Mike Hubbard of Auburn and Senate Speaker Pro Tem Del Marsh of Anniston said they have seen nothing yet that needs tweaking.
“I can tell you we are not going to make it less tough,” Hubbard said.
In the end, it might not matter what the Legislature or the governor do. Some sections of the law have been struck down already by federal judges. Others are being challenged in court. We suspect that is where the final “tweaking” on this bill will be done.
In the meantime, the tomatoes rot and the tag lines get longer.