By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Tuesday, March 5, the entire news world seemed to descend on Montgomery to cover the latest chapter in the Bentley/Mason sex scandal/abuse of power saga. Newscasts about the affair appeared across the country. The legislature is bogged down, trying to decide what constitutes an impeachable offense in Alabama. Does Gov. Bentley’s bad conduct rise to that level, and if so, how would they go about impeaching him?
Even though Alabama is viewed as one of the most corrupt states in the nation, the last time someone was impeached was in 1915, a Secretary of State, and he was found not guilty by the Senate. No governor has ever actually been removed from office by the legislature under the 1901 Constitution. Gov. Goy Hunt (R) had to resign by law in 1993 after the Attorney General prosecuted and convicted him for misusing money that was donated to his inauguration fund. But, he was not impeached. In many states, a Governor who had acted up and embarrassed the state like Bentley, must face a recall effort. It is enormously difficult to actually recall an official, but it does give the public the ability to take charge and make an executive decision.
Representative Will Ainsworth (R-Guntersville) wants to give the people of Alabama that option.
On Tuesday, April 5, Ainsworth introduced legislation to give the people of Alabama, recall powers. Rep. Ainsworth said in a statement, “Today, I, along with 30 co-sponsors have introduced legislation HB501 that would provide Alabamians with the opportunity to recall any sitting constitutional officer of the State of Alabama, or any member of the Alabama Legislature.”
Rep. Ainsworth said, “Our State finds itself at a crossroad. My legislation is not aimed at one person, office, or political persuasion; rather, this is a pursuit of honest government that has too often eluded our state. Criminality, or lack thereof, should not be the sole standard by which we evaluate the leaders of this state. Alabamians deserve and expect leadership based in integrity. Should a leader’s integrity and trust be lost, the people of this great state should not be left without recourse.”
The conservative Guntersville lawmaker said, “My legislation is very simple: any constitutional officer of the State of Alabama may be removed from office through a recall petition initiated by the public on grounds that the official violated an oath of office. A recall election will be held only if the petition is signed by 30 percent of the voters in the last election held and will be decided by a majority of voters.”
Ainsworth concluded, “Alabama law already provides a similar provision for the recall of municipal commissioners and mayors, so I can find little justification for depriving the general public of this authority with regard to constitutional officers of this state and the Alabama Legislature.”
Ainsworth said, that he also supports giving the voters initiative/referendum powers and plans on introducing that in the next legislative session.
Frank Dillman, Sr. has been leading a citizens movement asking for a recall initiative for years. The Bentley sex scandal has intensified this effort.
Mr. Dillman said in a statement recently, “Representative Mike Ball, who during the previous 12 sessions sponsored I&R legislation, passed the torch to Representative Isaac Whorton of Valley for hopefully the final leg of the multi-year marathon. Isaac has fire in his belly for the citizens and I predict an I&R growth spurt beginning with the 2017 legislative session.”
In the Senate, Sen. Clyde Chambliss is sponsoring recall legislation SB371.
Dillman said, “The Senate Constitution, Ethics, and Elections Committee now has the bill. Therefore, as activists we know the importance of contacting each committee member demanding SB371 receive a favorable opinion.”