Legislators busy in Montgomery

INSIDE THE STATEHOUSE

As the world turns in Alabama politics, a lot has happened in the first three months of 2015. After Inauguration Day, a federal judge in Mobile ruled Alabama’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage was not constitutional under federal law. In appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court, it was obvious that the high tribunal concurred with the lower court ruling and gave every indication that they would render a final edict on the subject come June. By midsummer, same-sex marriage will be the law of the land as decreed by the omnipotent U.S. Supreme Court.

There is not much that our state leaders/politicians can do but bark at the moon, which is exactly what our stalwart, religious, Ten Commandments Judge Roy Moore has done quite valiantly – and in vain. Moore gallantly instructed the probate judges to refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. He made national news and further endeared himself to his evangelical base.

Unfortunately, it will be to no avail. As most ninth-grade civics students know, federal law supersedes state law. Gov. Robert Bentley expressed his disapproval and filed the proper legal appeals to the liberal court ruling. However, his protest was less overt and more tempered. Due to the national exposure the state was about to receive from the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery march, Gov. Bentley probably felt like one black eye in the national spotlight was enough.

Terry Lathan, a longtime Mobile Republican organizer and activist, was elected chairwoman of the Alabama Republican Party in February. She succeeds Bill Armistead. She defeated former State Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin of northern Shelby County in a close vote. Either lady would have been a good choice for the dominant party in the state. Lathan prevailed because of her long years of toiling in the state Republican vineyards. In addition, the difference probably came down to Bob Riley being for McClurkin. The former governor’s endorsement was the kiss of death.

Andalusia attorney Tom Albritton has been named the new director of the Alabama Ethics Commission. He follows longtime director, Jim Sumner. Albritton has been in private practice for 23 years. He is a peer and friend of Andalusia state Rep. Mike Jones, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee. His father is retired federal judge Harold Albritton. Andalusia has a reputation for having outstanding attorneys over the years.

The Alabama Senate unanimously approved one of their former colleagues to the Ethics Commission. Former state Sen. Jerry Fielding of Sylacauga will be going on the Ethics Commission. Prior to serving in the Senate, Fielding had a distinguished judicial career as a district and circuit judge for more than 20 years.

Speaking of the state Senate, they and the Alabama House of Representatives have given a thumbs down to Gov. Bentley’s revenue enhancement proposals. Most of these ultraconservative legislators have taken a no-tax pledge and are more loyal to Grover Norquist than Gov. Bentley. They have thumbed their noses at the Governor and treated him and his programs with complete disdain. They have simply chosen to continue to kick the can down the road when it comes to funding the basic needs of state government in pretty much the same way the Democrats did years before. They have focused their attention instead on passing legislation saying that officials do not have to be forced to perform ceremonies to which they have religious objections – by the way, they already have this right. They also tackled subjects like whether to execute prisoners by lethal injection or the electric chair, legislation to make Lane cake the official state cake, and how many feet a car has to be away from a bicyclist.

These measures are popular with constituents. However, when the same constituents do not have any state troopers to enforce the 5-foot limit on cars and bicycles or any roads to drive their cars and bicycles on they may look back and think that the legislature fiddled while Rome burned.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 72 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the state legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.