- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

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June 3

The TimesDaily on House Speaker Mike Hubbard:

A Lee County jury will decide whether House Speaker Mike Hubbard violated any laws, but the testimony and exhibits presented by the prosecution are an ongoing embarrassment to the state.

Recent testimony showed Hubbard was collecting $12,000 per month from a municipal gas utility and aggressively promoting his client’s agenda to Gov. Robert Bentley and Bentley’s commerce director. Bentley testified he met with Hubbard on projects that would have benefited the utility with the understanding Hubbard was acting in his capacity as speaker, yet testimony indicated Hubbard sent reports of the meeting to the utility’s board members. The projects would have generated new customers for the utility.

The utility, Southeast Alabama Gas Co., also paid for Hubbard’s attendance at the 2013 Paris Air Show, where he apparently presented himself not as a paid consultant but as the Speaker of the House.

Hubbard was not just wearing two hats, that of House Speaker and as a consultant for the utility. He also was busy seeking business and investors for a printing company he owned.

Dax Swatek, a lobbyist, testified Hubbard tried to get him to invest $150,000 in his printing company.

“It’s at a minimum bad perception and based on my understanding of the ethics law, he couldn’t ask and I couldn’t give,” Swatek testified.

Hubbard was indicted in October 2014. Lawmakers re-elected him as House Speaker in January 2015. Even as more and more sordid details about his conduct were revealed, lawmakers declined to oust him and he lacked the decency to resign.

It is, of course, embarrassing that one of the state’s most powerful elected officials is embroiled in a trial with so much evidence of double-dealing and disdain for ethics laws. What is particularly troubling, however, is that he still has the title of House Speaker. Whether or not the conduct cited by prosecutors is found by a jury to be felonious, it is highly inappropriate. Even if Hubbard’s colleagues in the House didn’t know of his behavior through their own dealings with him and his printing company, even if they placed no credence in his indictment, the hundreds of emails documenting his inappropriate conduct have been a matter of public record for well over a year.

Even if Hubbard was too stubborn to step down as speaker, his colleagues could have saved the state considerable embarrassment by not re-electing him to the speakership, or by ousting him once it was clear the allegations of the indictment were well-documented.

It’s humiliating enough for the state to have a governor and chief justice under investigation. By re-electing Hubbard as speaker and retaining him in the position, the state House increased the humiliation and demonstrated they had more loyalty to Hubbard than to the citizens of Alabama.

Online:

http://www.timesdaily.com/

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June 5

The Montgomery Advertiser on suspended Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore:

Legal tantrums are one of suspended Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore’s specialties, and he’s not letting his most recent career crisis go to waste.

As the Montgomery Advertiser’s Brian Lyman reported, Liberty Counsel attorneys for Moore filed a federal lawsuit May 27 against the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission. That’s the state agency that booted him from the bench earlier in May, charging him with a number of violations of judicial ethics linked to his opposition to same-sex marriage.

The lawsuit demands Moore be immediately reinstated as head of Alabama’s court system, claiming state law that required his automatic suspension after the charges were filed is unconstitutional.

We believe the federal court will find the case groundless; it should, as Moore since 2015 has repeatedly and arrogantly ignored federal rulings striking down the state’s same-sex marriage ban and granting equal protection under the law to those entering such unions.

We also believe Moore is capitalizing on his ouster to rally support for his potential run for the governor’s office in 2018.

That’s shrewd politically perhaps, but again demonstrates his proclivity to put his personal crusades over the good of the state of Alabama, which needs leaders of integrity who understand the rule of law, including federal law that takes precedence over state law.

He showed the same truculence during the infamous 2003 Ten Commandments monument case, ignoring a federal court order to remove the structure from a state judicial building.

His legal counsel’s claim that the state law that led to his automatic suspension is unconstitutional because it gives the JIC too much power is yet another instance of Moore thinking he’s above the law.

Moore is exactly where he belongs - removed from judicial duty pending a trial before the state Court of the Judiciary to be scheduled as soon as July.

We said before that trial should come as quickly as possible and thoroughly examine Moore’s unethical actions - including his abuse of his authority in trying to stop Alabama probate judges from issuing same-sex marriage licenses and improper spouting off of his views about a pending lawsuit about same-sex unions.

The Liberty Counsel lawsuit also cites reports and reporters’ questions about the charges against Moore, saying the JIC violated confidentiality provisions.

There’s no small irony in the fact Moore has his team objecting to the publicity he now seeks as a staging ground for his political future.

That confidentiality quibble can be explored at the Court of the Judiciary trial. But it likely has nothing to do with the fact Moore has violated his sworn oath of office and should be permanently removed from the state’s high court.

Online:

http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/

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June 7

The Dothan Eagle on funding for lock and dam repair:

Circumstances along the Chattahoochee River seem to be getting worse instead of improving.

Increased demand for water from the Atlanta area has decreased the flow of the river, affecting communities downstream, leading to a years-long standoff among neighboring states over water usage. The change in water flow has been a factor in upsetting the ecological balance in Apalachicola Bay, contributing to the crippled oyster industry there.

Now portions of the river are no longer navigable; flooding has damaged the lock-and-dam systems on the river at Columbia, Alabama, and at Fort Gaines, Georgia, between Columbia and Eufaula, Alabama. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have closed the docks indefinitely, as there is no money available to make the necessary repairs.

Without the lock-and-dam operations, boats and other river traffic cannot proceed past those structures, which allow vessels to enter the lock at one water level, then raise or lower the water level to allow the vessels to proceed out the other side.

While the states must proceed with negotiations to find a suitable resolution to the dispute over the waters of the Chattahoochee, congressional representatives of Alabama, Georgia and Florida must make a priority of funding repairs to the lock-and-dam system along the river. Failure to provide the necessary funding for getting these structures back into operation is tantamount to abandoning the costly infrastructure there, as well as the necessity of navigable waters.

Online:

http://www.dothaneagle.com/

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