By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY— Lee County Circuit Judge Jacob Walker today, unsealed Speaker Mike Hubbard’s August 21 motion to dismiss the criminal charges against him. Hubbard’s motion challenges the constitutionality of the State’s ethics law.
Speaker Hubbard presided over the House of Representatives during the 2010 and 2013 legislative re-writes of the State’s ethics laws, casting multiple votes in favor of the changes. He also spoke glowingly of the changes many times, including in his 2012 memoir, Storming the State House.
Hubbard now claims the changes he voted for and praised are unconstitutional.
In particular, Hubbard’s motion states he has a constitutional right to serve as a lobbyist while presiding as Speaker of the House. One topic of the motion reads in full: Hubbard’s right to lobby on behalf of his or his business clients’ is a fundamental right constitutionally protected by the First Amendment.
The original deadline to file a motion to challenge the constitutionality of the statutes under which he has been charged was originally July 24, 2015. On July 20, 2015, Hubbard filed a motion to enlarge the time to file his constitutional challenge. Judge Walker granted the motion, allowing Hubbard additional time to challenge the ethics statutes.
On August 5, 2015, twelve days after the filing would have been due, had Judge Walker not extended the deadline, the Alabama Ethics Commission issued an opinion allowing Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham) to serve simultaneously as a lobbyist and legislator.
Despite the Ethics Commission releasing the Patricia Todd opinion after the original deadline for Hubbard’s motion, Hubbard included the Todd opinion in his motion in support of his argument that legislators should be allowed to serve as lobbyists.
Hubbard’s motion also claims the ethics statutes he voted for are unconstitutionally vague and cannot apply to party chairs. In addition, he claims political party funds paid to his businesses are free speech, there was no conflict of interest when he cast votes in his client’s interest, payments made to him or his businesses were not “things of value,” assistance in getting new consulting clients was not a “thing of value,” and letters (not formal Ethics Commission opinions) from the Ethics Commission give him legal cover to engage in the activities for which he was charged.
The Alabama Political Reporter will provide in-depth coverage of this important filing in the near future.