By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
For those who honestly care about the future of our State, there are few bright spots this Thanksgiving. Even as we engage in polite conversation over turkey and dressing or pecan pie, the subject will naturally turn to the state of the State.
While, “Who will replace Senator Jeff Sessions and the political dominos to follow” is a fun parlor game, it’s the nagging reality that Governor Robert Bentley used the tools of government to destroy political enemies, carry on an affair and deceive the public, that is the “Sword of Damocles” hanging over our State.
There are supposed to be checks and balances in government, but the only checks on Alabama’s political class are the Special Prosecution Division of the Attorney General’s Office and a few members of the press.
Abuse of power, both legal and illegal within the highest offices of government is an ever-present evil, but over the last six years, it has risen to new heights under former Speaker Mike Hubbard and Gov. Bentley.
It also seems apparent that the Judiciary branch is not immune from this ill, as witnessed by its prosecution of Chief Justice Roy Moore, and the refusal to unseal the court documents in his case.
The Alabama Political Reporter is the only media outlet in the entire State to sue to have the records in the Moore case unsealed.
Moore’s removal from the bench by way of “suspension” is not only legally questionable, it is suspect of being nothing more than political intrigue in the guise of justice. In our State, we pride ourselves in our firm belief in the rule of law, but when carrying out the removal of an elected Chief Justice, the action of the court must not only be right, they must look right. But where is the check of the Judicial Inquire Commission that indicted Moore, for a complaint by the Southern Poverty Law Center? The media by-and-large is silent on the Moore issue because they agree with his removal. But, there can be no satisfaction with an outcome achieved through unlawful means.
Sen. Dick Brewbaker has pre-filed a bill for the 2017 Session to address the abuses of the JIC, so there is one lawmaker who will not sit by and watch the State Judicial system fall prey to a “Star Chamber-like” court.
As for Bentley, no one knows for certain what he will do next. He is said to be planning a late January Special Session to reintroduce his billion dollar prison or bust bill. Our prisons are wretched abominations unfit for a third world country and unconstitutional under US law. But building new prisons will not remedy the horrors within State prisons where violence, mental illness and neglect are widespread.
Bentley may use the appointment to the US Senate as a carrot to convince lawmakers to back his prison plan. Beware of a Governor promising political appointments in exchange for favors. Is a US Senate seat a thing of value?
There are a few bright spots, like the workforce development plan being implemented under AlabamaWorks. With nearly 80 percent of working-age Alabamians lacking a college education, AlabamaWorks is a reason for hope.
As the Thanksgiving feast brings the Iron Bowl, football will take center stage as the Titans of college sports battle for glory. Then it is off to the 2017 Legislative Session where the fight for good government meets the forces of ignorance, corruption and greed.
We should be thankful for our State government, because as bad as it is, the alternative is worse.