In April (see here), I blamed the Democrats for failing to act on Constitutional Reform and losing any voice in the revision of the Alabama Constitution.  I wrote:

After years of having majorities sufficient to pass authentic constitutional reform in Alabama, but failing to address the issue at all, Alabama Democrats are to blame thank for whatever emerges as our new constitution. According to this article, the Alabama Republicans, seeing the strategic importance of constitutional reform, are quickly moving to seize control this issue.

The prospects for rational and deeply-considered revisions looked bleak back then.

Representatives and Senators from Prattville, Mobile, Auburn, Daphne, Homewood, and St.Clair County: now that is diversity of Alabama for you? Where is the black belt’s voice? Where is urban Alabama’s representative? For that matter: where is rural Alabama’s influence? These representatives will produce a constitution ideal for their respective constituents: affluent, white suburbia.

We can only hope that the internal backbiting, purity-tests, and power-jockeying within the Republican Party will cause some opening for reason.  Maybe Gov. Bentley, his puny three appointees, and Rep. DeMarco can, at least, be a temporary roadblock against he juggernaut of the super-majority, 11 appointees from the Riley/Hubbard/Marsh/ Bradley Byrne faction of the Party.

Robert Bentley has now made his appointments. These appointments do not exactly bring balance to the Commission for which I  had hoped. While former Governor Albert Brewer has been a long-time champion for constitutional reform, the other two appointments certainly counter-balance the wisdom he might bring to the commission. The remaining two:

  • “Becky Gerritson of Wetumpka . . . is currently President of the Wetumpka Tea Party.”
  • “Vicki Drummond, of Jasper, is an active member of the Alabama Policy Institute and the Heritage Foundation.”

Bentley said in a statement. “Vicki Drummond and Becky Gerritson have a dedicated passion and vision for exploring the need to reform the Alabama constitution.”

Governor, when have these ladies shown this “dedicated passion and vision” for constitutional reform? In what forum? Usually constitutional reform has not been a high priority of many Tea Party groups.

(UPDATE: according to Jennifer Ardis, a spokeswoman for Bentley, this Tea Party President and the API/Heritage Foundation activist have “an appreciation for what government should and should not do in the daily life of everyday Alabamians.”)

But it gets better.

Senator March named his appointees as well.  He named

  • Carolyn McKinstry, a survivor of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963;
  • Matthew Lembke, an attorney at Bradley Arant Boult Cummings. A appellate attorney with impressive credentials yet a member of the Federalist Society and typically represents major corporations. For instance, he “defended textile manufacturer in an environmental action alleging tresspass and nuisance claims relating to discharge of textile wastewater into a public lake.  On appeal from a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiffs, the Alabama Supreme Court reversed the judgment in favor of the plaintiffs and rendered judgment in favor of the defendant textile manufacturer.”
  • Jim Pratt, a Birmingham attorney, president of the Alabama State Bar and past president of the Alabama Association for Justice, a group representing trial lawyers.

Speaker Hubbard appointed:

A registered lobbyist? In the words of Keyshawn Johnson: “C’mon Man!”

Does this list look “inclusive and reflect the racial, gender, economic and geographic diversity of Alabama” and the Senate resolution demands?

Members from Rural Alabama? Zero. (Okay: one if you count Governor Albert Brewer being Morgan County.)

African-Americans Members? One out of 16 or (6.25%) while African-American represent 26% of the population in Alabama.

Female Members? Four (25%) while the lady folk represent 51% of the population generally.

White suburbia and corporations? I will let you count.

If this Commission reflects the “diversity” of Alabama, then Alabama is one big white, suburban enclave with as many registered lobbyists as there are African-Americans.

Thanks again, Democratic Majorities of years past.

 

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James Madison penned this conclusion in Federalist Papers, #51:

This policy of supplying by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives, might be traced through the whole system of human affairs, private as well as public. We see it particularly displayed in all the subordinate distributions of power; where the constant aim is to divide and arrange the several offices in such a manner as that each may be a check on the other; that the private interest of every individual, may be a centinel over the public rights. These inventions of prudence cannot be less requisite in the distribution of the supreme powers of the state.

According to the founders, checks and balances were critically important in any organization and especially civil government. Evidently, the Republican leadership in the Alabama legislature do not exactly agree, even when the other office and check is occupied by someone in their own party.

Republican Speaker Mike Hubbard and Senate Pro Tem Sen. Del Marsh

In another snub toward Republican Governor Robert Bentley, the Republican leadership in the House and Senate has wrested power from and greatly diminished any influence the Governor may have in the rewrite of the state constitution. As I discussed earlier, Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh is pushing through a bill to “reform” the Alabama state constitution. The bill will create a commission with 16 members in include:

  • Republican Sen. Del Marsh and three persons he appoints. (25%)
  • Speaker Mike Hubbard and three persons he appoints. (25%)
  • 4 specified Republican House and Senate Committee Chairmen (all hand-selected by Marsh and Hubbard for their posts) (25%)
  • Lastly, Governor Bentley and his three appointees

Do you see balance there? The Legislative Branch (really two men: Speaker Hubbard and Sen. Marsh) controls 75% of the members of this Constitutional Reform Commission. The Executive, a co-equal branch of government, has only 25%. (Granted: Rep. DeMarco may be a Bentley man.) That, however,  is better than the Judicial branch which has no members, no influence, and no participation in this process at all. (In contradistinction, Florida, which has a commission process in place, fairly and equitably draws its commissioners from across every branch of government.)

The Riley/March/Hubbard/Byrne faction of the Republican Party must be still chapped at the Governor for beating their crony in the primary. This present chop-block follows a long series of other snubs and adverse power-plays.The R/M/H/B faction painted the Bradley Byrne’s race against Gov. Robert Bentley “as a showdown not between two Republicans, but a battle for the heart of the state GOP.”

  • In the primary, the R/M/H/B then undercut Gov. Bentley by rushing “ethics” legislation through a special session before Bentley went into office.
  • After he won, they continued to fight Bentley, implying he was a “RINO.”
  • Then, the R/M/H/B employed a “party power play aimed at providing the Riley-Hubbard-Marsh branch of the party with formidable resources” that will be outside the grasp of the party apparatus aligning with new Governor Bentley.
  • Speaker Hubbard formed his own Speaker’s Commission on Job Creation as a direct competitor to Bentley’s proposed cabinet-level Office of Small Business Creation and Development.
  • Byrne created of his own government watchdog group, Reform Alabama, an outlet to criticize and prod at the Bentley administration for the next 4 years.

Does anyone believe this faction would have granted former Governor Riley only 25%?

Will this now governor stand up for his co-equal power and veto the bill unless he is provided equal power to Marsh and Hubbard? Or will be continue to be run over by the Legislative leadership? Perhaps, Bentley will propose his own Commission proposal through an ally in the House which balances the power.