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Birmingham Rep. Oliver Robinson resigns House seat

By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter

Democrat Rep. Oliver Robinson from Birmingham has decided his time is up on Goat Hill. On Wednesday, Robinson announced he would retire from the Alabama House of Representatives.

Robinson, who has represented House District 58 in Birmingham since 1998, said he was retiring because his daughter has taken a job as a liaison for Gov. Robert Bentley. He said he is afraid of potential conflicts of interest.

“My reason for retiring is simply because of a wonderful opportunity provided to my daughter to become the Governor’s Liaison to the House of Representatives,” Robinson said Wednesday. “She is the first female as well as the first African-American female to hold this position in Alabama’s history. With the responsibilities to ascertain all votes on the House floor, we can easily see in this highly-ethical and conflict-of-interest environment where I could cause her problems in her job.”

With Robinson’s retirement, Birmingham Mayor William Bell lost an advocate and a friend. Robinson supported several bills backed by the Mayor intended to take power from Birmingham’s City Council President. Robinson’s bills gave power over the City’s budget to the Mayor and put term limits on the Council president, who has been a fierce rival of Bell’s in the Magic City.

“I’m proud of the fact I sponsored legislation to bring the Mayor Council Act into the 21st Century,” Robinson said. “There have been many successes in 18 years and I’m very thankful.”

Despite Robinson’s publicly-confessed reasons for vacating his seat, sources close to Robinson who spoke with APR said there could be other factors at play. According to them, Robinson’s resignation could be tied to a Jefferson County Grand Jury empaneled by the Attorney General’s Special Prosecutions Division, which is headed by Deputy Attorney General Matt Hart.

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Robinson said he waited until after the Nov. 8 election to ensure the passage of State Amendment 14, which validated more than 600 local bills passed under House rules that were voided by a Jefferson County judge last year.

The Amendment secured funds for school construction, transit and the Birmingham Zoo in or near Robinson’s district.

Gov. Robert Bentley will determine a date and call a special election to fill Robinson’s vacated seat, which will be important for the House Democrat’s shrinking minority in the Legislature.

Chip Brownlee is a former political reporter, online content manager and webmaster at the Alabama Political Reporter. He is now a reporter at The Trace, a non-profit newsroom covering guns in America.

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