Last Thursday, Alabama State Sen. Cam Ward announced his support for Mitt Romney. Speaker Mike Hubbard had already announced his support while Congressman Mike Rogers and Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey share the chair of the Alabama for Romney campaign.

Considering the rhetoric of this crowd, how can they jump on the Romney wagon so enthusiastically? Over the past couple of years now, they have consistently beat the drum against President Obama’s “liberal” policies. Most prominently, they have fought his “socialized healthcare programs” even making opposition to any healthcare mandates a key plank of the now infamous ALGOP “Handshake with Alabama

So how do Hubbard and Rogers overlook “push toward a socialistic-leaning government in this country” with RomneyCare and its “socialist” mandates which “will dampen too many employers’ ability to hire and expand” and “threaten job creation and stability across East Alabama” and “which force citizens to purchase something they do not wish to purchase, a mandate which has never been previously demanded of the populace.

Perhaps a healthcare mandate is a “conservative” policy position if a Republican says it:

or if the very conservative Heritage Foundation and Newt Gingrich actually created the idea.

Remember the good ole’ days when the Republicans were so concerned with the Constitutionality of legislation. I guess that rhetoric was limited to campaigns in 2010.

This week, Republican Speaker Mike Hubbard conceded at least part of the law is probably unconstitutional.

“It’s about illegal immigrants, and I have said in the media what part of the word ‘illegal’ do people not understand?” he said. “That’s what it is about. . . ”

“Some of the parts of it may be stricken down and we may have to come back and revisit it.”

At another forum, Hubbard said:

“Some parts of that law may be struck down,” Hubbard said. “I hope not, but it may be. We knew going in we would probably have to come in and tweak it.

He did not explain why they passed legislation likely to be declared unconstitutional  subjecting the state to millions in legal fees. For instance, Arizona has expended over $2 million so far. Or why they didn’t narrow the extremity of the legislation, as other Republican Legislatures had done.

But what did he learn from the error of the Legislature? Nothing.

“I’m proud of what we passed. We did it for the right reasons. We have more bills like that coming. We’re just getting started.

These laws violate the Constitution; these laws are illegal enactments. To borrow Hubbard’s own words: “what part of the word ‘illegal’ (or unconstitutional)  do people not get? That’s what it is about.”

These admissions that the law was constitutionally suspect by Hubbard were followed, however, by continued denials by Senator Scott Beason, the sponsor of the bill.

“State Sen. Scott Beason, a sponsor of the immigration law, also defended it, and “said he believed it would stand up to legal challenges, since legislators adopted it with previous court rulings in mind after challenges to similar laws in other states. “Of course, there’s no telling what a judge might do,” Beason said.

“Previous court rulings in mind?” Did they miss the cases in Arizona and Utah? “No telling what a judge might do?” I think we have a pretty good idea what a judge is going to do when seven out of seven other judges have struck laws down that were less extreme than the one passed in Alabama.

I have questioned the “diversity” on the Alabama Constitutional Reform Commission (see here, here and here) before.  An article in the Tuscaloosa Times, with the headline “Alabama Constitutional Revision Commission doesn’t reflect mandated diversity” raises the same issue today:

According to the resolution, commission membership “shall be inclusive and reflect the racial, gender, geographic, urban/rural, and economic diversity of the state.”

.  .  .The appointees as a group — lawyers, mostly white urban residents, and three women — don’t appear to strictly conform to the resolution’s membership requirement.

Marsh said the diversity language is fairly standard and he had several applicants, including a minority female, whom he appointed.

“I tried to follow the intent of the law,” Marsh said. “I think the intent was to do that, but you can’t maintain that every time.”

Hubbard spokesman Todd Stacey said Speaker Hubbard had “good intentions.” For Sen. Marsh and Speaker Hubbard: “It’s the thought that counts.”

The catch: the resolution used the word “shall.” According to Alabama law (for instance, see Ex Parte Joe Looney, Jr. 797 So.2d 427 Ala. 2001),

The word ‘shall’ has been defined as follows: “ ‘As used in statutes, contracts, or the like, this word is generally imperative or mandatory. In common or ordinary parlance, and in its ordinary signification, the term “shall” is a word of command, and one which has always [been given] or which must be given a compulsory meaning; as denoting obligation. The word in ordinary usage means “must” and is inconsistent with a concept of discretion.’

With only one African-American member out of 16, I doubt any court would find that the diversity mandate has been satisfied. Considering the history of the current Constitution and its racist origins, you would think Hubbard/Marsh would try to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

But it the make-up of the commission also fails to satisfy the elements of diversity in “gender,” (3 4 out of 16),  “geographic,” (only one north of Birmingham if you count Gov. Brewer), “urban/rural” (only one rural if you count Gov. Brewer again), or “economic.” (no one from the Black Belt.)

Where are the calls for public hearings on appointments of this commission from Republicans as in May?  Where are the inquiries into financial contributions into these appointees? Since Alabama Power has their registered lobbyist on the commission, is it improper to explore how much the company contributed to Hubbard, Marsh, Bentley, and GOP?

Sen. Marsh said he had “several applicants.” Who were these applicants? How were applications submitted? In what manner was the applications solicited? What was the criteria for appointment.  Were interviews even conducted?

Just two months ago, Senator Marsh was so concerned about “process” that he demanded a do-over of the selections by Gov. Bentley of appointees to the Auburn Board of Trustees, Marsh said:

I’m not pleased with the process that got us here, and I’m not alone,” said Marsh, a Republican from Anniston. ‘I think we can do better.’

The problem that I and other senators have is that the process was conducted way too quickly, and it wasn’t as transparent as it could have been,” he said.

Because of a lack of transparency, he threatened to shut the whole the process down in the Senate.

Marsh said his decision to force a do-over was strictly about the process, and that he had no objection to any particular nominees.

“Nothing personal against any of them. In fact, they could all be re-submitted if that is the will of the university,” he said. “But they need to take a more open approach. The consensus for that is strong.”

Senator Marsh, we need a do-over on this Commission as well: a more transparent process, a more open approach, and one which conforms to the requirements of the enabling resolution. We need a process that establishes a commission which is “inclusive and reflect the racial, gender, geographic, urban/rural, and economic diversity of the state.

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.

 

The Alabama Anti-immigration Bill was the topic for discussion at this week’s Auburn Ministerial Association meeting, as reported by this article:

the group’s members expressed adamant opposition to the law as it is written, even seeking to present a resolution opposing the law before Auburn City Council members. . . .

The group discussed plans to draft a resolution to be presented before the Auburn City Council, and plans to extend an invitation to Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, a supporter of the law, to attend the next Auburn Ministerial Association meeting.

Perhaps Republican Speaker Hubbard will respond to his constituents request and declare to these minister what he was reported to have said in another venue:

“I make no apologies for what we passed,” said Hubbard … “I’m proud of what we passed. We did it for the right reasons. We have more bills like that coming. We’re just getting started.”