INSIDE THE STATEHOUSE
by Steve Flowers
Now that the national conventions are over and we have had a glimpse of what to expect in the upcoming fall presidential contest, let us turn our attention back to our good ole state politics.
Even though we do not have any good state races this year, it does not mean that we have not had our share of political happenings. We have been so active that we have garnered national publicity.
Let us reminisce and get you caught up on our soap opera, As the World Turns in Alabama Politics. As the year began we knew that the Mike Hubbard corruption trial would finally unfold. It ended in a convincing conviction and the removal of the once powerful speaker from office and legislative leadership.
We all knew of our good old Dr. Robert Bentley’s illicit relationship with his political advisor Rebekah Caldwell Mason but it seemed that it had maybe settled down. However, his fired former friend, Spencer Collier, came after Bentley and his girlfriend with a vengeance. There is an old saying that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Well you can add another adage that could be applied to best male friends scorned. Bentley and Collier were best buddies while in the Legislature. Most of Bentley’s Cabinet has come from guys that served with him in the House of Representatives.
Spencer Collier was a State Trooper by profession. He cherished the post of heading ALEA. Therefore, when Bentley fired him he turned on his doctor/governor buddy. He has filed suit and spilled the beans on all of the sordid details of Bentley’s affair.
It does not appear to me that Collier has much of a case. Cabinet members serve at the pleasure of the governor and the governor can remove them for any reason. It is not a bureaucratic merit system position.
Regardless, the damage has been done to Bentley and Mason. Our homespun, pious governor has been relegated to a national punchline. He continues to be fodder for late night talk shows and cartoonists. He has rendered himself totally irrelevant. Therefore, his legacy will more than likely be the salacious tapes that Collier released. We probably have not heard the last of this story. All of the media hype has spurred the interest of federal investigators.
The third saga of the year has been the removal of Chief Justice Roy Moore from his high tribunal office by the State Judicial Inquiry Commission. This commission has set a hearing for next week, August 8, to decide the fate of our renowned religious judge.
This vague Judicial Inquiry Commission brought six charges of misconduct against Moore, which triggered his automatic suspension on May 6. The charges stemmed from Moore’s January 6 order telling probate judges they had a ministerial duty not to issue same sex marriage licenses. This came after the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled such bans were unconstitutional.
The Commission said that Moore’s directive placed all 68 probate judges in an untenable position and forced them to violate the state’s cannon of ethics. Moore contends that his marriage order was simply advice and they did not have to follow his advice. Most of them did ignore him. They had sense enough to know that the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion trumps a state court judge’s opinion.
Moore also argues that the Commission has no power over administrative orders. I tend to concur with Moore. It appears to me that this group has overstepped their bounds. My perception of this group’s mission is to police true misconduct by judges like egregious acts of illegality and immorality. Moore has not done anything illegal or immoral, he just simply has a different opinion than the U.S. Supreme Court on the issue of gay marriage.
His opinion is also the same as the vast majority of Alabamians. This group ousted Moore over complaints brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center and ACLU. Folks, in the Heart of Dixie, you could not find two better boogeymen to run against. Moore has got the ACLU, SPLC and the liberal same sex marriage mandating U.S. Supreme Court to run against for governor. George Wallace would have loved that scenario. He always said find me a good boogeyman to run against. They may be electing Moore governor.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.