We have to require our leaders to do the right thing

March 8, 2017

By Joey Kennedy
Alabama Political Reporter

Don’t say I never say anything good about the Alabama Legislature.

OK, maybe it doesn’t happen often, but it happens. Over the years, the Legislature passed and voters ratified the amendment setting up the Forever Wild land preservation program. Lawmakers in 2010 passed tough new ethics laws that eventually led to disgraced former House Speaker Mike Hubbard being convicted of corruption and thrown out of office.

And now, there’s a proposal before the Legislature that’ll force any member in a leadership position in the Legislature to leave that position if indicted on a felony charge.

Sponsored by Rep. Allen Treadaway (R-Morris), the simple bill would lead to the suspension of the Senate President Pro Tempore, Senate Majority Leader, Senate Minority Leader, Speaker of the House, Speaker Pro Tempore, House Majority Leader, House Minority Leader or the chairperson of any House or Senate standing committee to be removed from the position if indicted on a felony charge.

The legislator would not be kicked out of the Legislature unless convicted (as was Hubbard) of the felony, but that member could not serve in his (or her) leadership position under the indictment.

Treadaway’s bill was well explained Tuesday by Alabama Political Reporter’s Chip Brownlee on Tuesday.

Treadaway’s bill was introduced last week; it already has 15 co-sponsors and is before the House Internal Affairs committee.

But here’s the kicker: It’s not the first time Treadaway has put forward this bill. Indeed, last year, shortly after the Legislature went into session, Treadaway introduced the same bill. At the time, Hubbard, probably the most powerful elected official in Alabama, was under 23 felony indictments for corruption.

Even so, he was re-elected to the House and re-elected as Speaker.

Further demonstrating his corruption, Hubbard made sure Treadaway’s bill went nowhere. It didn’t even get out of committee.

Thus, Hubbard maintained his Speaker’s position, embarrassing the Legislature and the State for months before being removed from office after being convicted of 12 of the 23 corruption counts. Hubbard is appealing, but if he’s unsuccessful, he will likely spend four years in State prison.

But Hubbard has shown, if nothing else, he can delay the inevitable. Maybe those new State prisons will be up and running before his reckoning.

Treadaway’s bill absolutely makes sense. The lawmaker, who is a captain in the Birmingham Police Department, knows that if he or one of his officers is indicted, they’ll be moved from their position until the issue is decided. The same holds true for school teachers, nurses, and other officials.

There’s no reason a State lawmaker in a leadership position shouldn’t live under the same rules — the same rules many of us already live under.

That just makes sense. A lot more sense than that prison building program as it currently is proposed, or the misguided grab for public school dollars with a voucher system, or allowing anybody to walk around with a concealed weapon without having a permit.

The hope is that the Legislature will pass this bill. As Treadaway told Brownlee, this will help “maintain the public’s trust,” at least as much as the public’s trust in the Legislature can be maintained.

A man or woman under a felony indictment shouldn’t hold a leadership position. Generally, the hope would be that the official would step aside on his own. But Hubbard refused, as have others in similar positions.

So let’s make it state law. Then residents and voters won’t have to depend on a lawmaker’s questionable honor to do the right thing.

Joey Kennedy, as Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column each week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]

 

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