On the other hand, the state's Wal-Marts keep well-stocked with BCS football National Championship Trophies. So that's a positive.

So, as you may have heard, a while back Alabama passed the “toughest” anti-immigration law in the country.  I already didn’t care much for it.  I thought it forced certain roles on folks that shouldn’t have them (such as schools having to discover and report the immigration status of students and parents) and that it encouraged racism and racial profiling (because I still don’t know how you are supposed to ‘suspect’ someone of being an illegal immigrant) by police.  But then I discovered an aspect of the law that actually impacted me and many others directly.

I, like many others, being 2011 and all, choose to renew my car tags over the internet.  By renewing online, I don’t have to stand in line.  In turn, my not showing up at the courthouse helps ease the crowding there.  It’s a win-win.  It’s the kind of thing technology is for.  But with this new law, I would no longer be able to do that.  See, in order to have the honor of paying the tag fee, I would have to prove that I’m a citizen of the United States.  Really brilliant.  If somebody is willing to pay them money, why would they want to make that process more difficult?  And why as a citizen of the United States should I have to prove that I am a citizen of the United States?  It’s almost as if they are assuming that I am guilty of being an illegal immigrant until I prove otherwise.

So obviously this will put a burden on the county courthouses all across the state.  But in Jefferson County, we have an extra burden.  You see, the county is pretty much out of money.  As such, they have had to make drastic cutbacks on the services it provides.  One such service was the county’s satellite courthouses.  This county had six locations where you could go to take care of tags, licenses, etc.  But since we have no money, four of those offices had to be closed.  So this is a perfect time to force people to go to the already overcrowded courthouses.

Speaking of which, the county having no money is just more evidence that we are going in the wrong direction.  Because of our antiquated racist state constitution, counties cannot pass their own county taxes.  They have to go through the state legislature (and half the time even put an amendment into the constitution itself, which is why we have over 825 amendments).  But even when you manage to go through that process, the state still manages to screw it up.  So an occupational tax that our county relies on was ruled unconstitutional.

Now many who seem to think we shouldn’t have to pay taxes for anything rejoiced.  But the county is going to have to cut $100 million from the $312 million budget originally approved.  Now I’m not going to say that the budget was completely fat-free before.  But you can’t cut a third of your budget and not have that hurt.  So you want money for libraries?  Too bad, they bought books last year.  Money for jails?  Nope, just going to have to let criminals go if there is no room.  Oh you want a raise?  Ha!  No, take a pay cut instead and be happy you still have a job at all!  That should boost the economy!  Oh, and let’s close that hospital that provides health care for the poor, because really, who likes poor sick people anyway? (Nevermind the fact that more than  half of the hospital’s budget is funded by a tax specifically earmarked for indigent care and the rest provided by revenues generated to the extent that the hospital generally produces a surplus.)

Sigh.  At least a judge has blocked the immigration law for the time being, meaning I should be able to renew my tags online this month and be good to go for one more year.  Meanwhile the county is still struggling to find the cuts it has to make.  I suspect we are going to find out the true meaning behind the saying “you get what you pay for” very soon.

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