GOP case has shut down contributions
The recently completed special session of the Legislature saw the swift passage of the General Fund Budget, which was a necessity due to the state's fiscal year beginning on Oct. 1.
The Legislature also successfully addressed the issue of eminent domain. The legislation offsets a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court allowing cities to seize private property for commercial development. The Legislature and Gov. Riley agreed that eminent domain should only be exercised to secure property for government purposes such as roads and schools.
The Supreme Court had left an opening to give the states some wiggle room to tweak the opinion and Alabama became the first state to seize the opportunity.
Another measure that won approval was the passage of an $80 million appropriation to the Alabama State Port Authority. This issue was a cause of friction during the regular session and created a feeding frenzy with other metropolitan areas trying to piggyback Mobile's port improvement.
Birmingham legislators argued that if Mobile needed money to improve the Port of Mobile they needed money for a domed stadium. The passage of the port money was good news for Mobile. Gov. Riley made a point of signing the legislation in Mobile. It was good publicity for the governor.
Dr. Paul Hubbert made clear to his AEA members that he has no plans to retire, at least through the 2006 elections. Speculation has always been that Roy Johnson, the Chancellor of the Junior College System, would be Hubbert's successor. The State School Board raised his pay over the summer to close to $300,000 a year to discourage his interest in the AEA post if and when Hubbert retires.
An issue that looms over all of next year's legislative races has finally been set in motion. The GOP has threatened for more than a year to file a federal lawsuit similar to Georgia in hopes of overturning the legislative district lines approved in 2000.
The suit was filed in Mobile Federal Court which is seen as a Republican friendly venue. At issue is the Republican allegation that a democratically controlled Alabama Legislature packed voters with GOP leanings into a few districts. Indeed most Republican districts are overpopulated while most Democratic districts are under populated. The fact is clear but the question is whether a federal court will order new districts drawn in 2006, six years after the fact and only a few years away from the next redistricting. The Republicans won their case in Georgia based on similar facts causing the Legislature to go from majority Democrat to a Republican majority.
The case will be watched very closely by incumbent legislators of both parties, but the lobbyists and major campaign contributors will be watching even more closely. It has already shut down most campaign contributions because the case could linger throughout 2006 and you could have an election in 2006 and again in 2007.
A good many Montgomery special interests believe there is a good chance this scenario will occur. This cloud will hover over all Legislative and Senate races next year. Speaking of clouds, Don Siegelman has not let the threat of Federal indictment in Montgomery deter his campaign plans. As I have stated previously, the only way that Don Siegelman will not run for governor next year is if he is in jail or dead.
Nobody has ever had a more horrible track record as a federal prosecutor than Alice Martin, the GOP appointed Northern District U.S. Attorney. She has lost every case of importance in her short tenure, including the high profile case against Richard Scrushy. Most people expect that she would have muffed the Eric Rudolph case if he had not pled guilty. They do not seem to field the brightest and best attorneys for these posts.
Speaking of federal appointments, former Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor's interim appointment by President Bush to a temporary seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals has become permanent.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers writes a weekly syndicated column on Alabama politics. He served 16 years in the Alabama House of Representatives. Steve may be reached at ww.steveflowers.us.