- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

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June 13

Decatur Daily on Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore:

Once again, a federal court has overruled Alabama officials’ efforts to ignore the U.S. Supreme Court and the Constitution, permanently barring further efforts to enforce state laws that ban same-sex marriage.

U.S. District Judge Callie Granade, of Mobile, issued the order last week in litigation that followed the U.S. Supreme Court decision that effectively legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

Granade, in her order, wrote that it was necessary for her to further clarify the high court’s decision because Alabama laws against same-sex marriage remain on the books. She said the Alabama Supreme Court’s willingness to issue decisions conflicting with the U.S. Supreme Court demonstrate the need for permanent action.

At the heart of the judge’s ruling is, of course, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. He instructed the state’s probate judges to ignore a federal court ruling on same-sax marriage, as well as the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, and not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Moore was telling elected state officials to disobey the law, only because his personal beliefs were in conflict with the law. As a judge, Moore should understand that court decisions are sometimes not palatable to everyone, but in a land that operates under the rule of law, high court decisions are final unless successfully challenged in later legal action.

Moore’s defiance again has him suspended from his duties after the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission lodged charges of potential judicial ethics violations. Those charges will be heard before the Alabama Court of the Judiciary, which removed Moore from office in 2003 for refusing to obey a court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument he had installed in the state judiciary building.

Moore, and not a few Republicans in the Legislature, are laboring under the delusion that Alabama and the United States are a theocracy bound to the teachings of the Christian Bible. That is not true. The United States, as well as Alabama, is a secular democratic republic ruled by a constitution.

The advantage of a secular republic, particularly ours, is the Constitution guarantees religious freedom because it does not prescribe certain religious beliefs. In fact, Article VI, Section 3, of the Constitution states there shall be no religious test to qualify for an office in the United States.

Moore’s obstinacy on his religious beliefs and their intersection with government have called into question his competency to hold elected office, and have portrayed Alabama in a negative way.

Online:

https://www.decaturdaily.com/

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June 13

The Gadsden Times on Mike Hubbard:

Mike Hubbard’s overall legacy certainly is tarnished - that’s an understatement; it’s shredded to smithereens - following his conviction by a Lee County jury on 12 of 23 felony ethics charges.

He’s no longer speaker of Alabama’s House of Representatives. He’s not even a member of that body anymore, having automatically lost the seat he’d held for 18 years after those guilty verdicts were returned.

Hubbard potentially faces decades in a state penitentiary and we imagine his legal bills are enormous (and will continue growing through the inevitable appeals process).

Most importantly, words like “alleged,” ”accused” and “suspected” of using his position and influence to solicit contracts and benefit his companies and clients are no longer operative. Hubbard said in a statement that he’s leaving the political arena “with his head held high.” He’s also departing as a convicted felon, as much a criminal as the 29,000-odd men and women crammed into Alabama’s bulging prisons.

His protestations aside, that has to be a blow to the psyche of someone who six years ago was at the pinnacle of Alabama politics after leading Republicans to their first legislative majority in a century, and since then has been a power broker supreme in Montgomery.

Amid the wreckage, however, one bit of Hubbard’s legacy still merits celebration, even if he did run away from it while attempting to save his hide.

One of the Legislature’s first moves after the GOP took control was to strengthen the state ethics law. Hubbard at the time promised Alabamians they would “see a difference in the way their government operates,” adding, “This new Legislature is committed to being more transparent, more accountable and more responsible to the people’s needs than ever before.”

We’ll punt on the complete veracity of those statements, especially the last sentence, given what’s happened in recent sessions. Still, the system worked as far as ensuring ethics and rooting out corruption and wrongdoing, although Hubbard still maintains his innocence.

His attorneys argued that he was making legitimate business deals with longtime friends and simply was trying to earn a living. Hubbard in his statement after the trial spoke of “a scary and dangerous” precedent if it’s made “impossible for citizen-legislators to serve in public office.”

We’ll note that the original “citizen-politician,” Lucious Quinctius Cincinnatus, lived up to the ideals of that label by serving as Rome’s leader not one second more than he had to and without demonstrating an ounce of ambition, then headed back to his farm to earn a living.

It’s probably too much to expect that from today’s politicians. The scent of power is too sweet and the lure of personal ambition is too enticing these days.

Some have lambasted Republicans for standing by Hubbard until the word “guilty” was repeated 12 times. Others have cited the turmoil involving Gov. Robert Bentley and Chief Justice Roy Moore, and seem to be expecting (or relishing the thought of) their potential falls from power. There’s no sense in piling on or soothsaying; it would detract from the significance of what happened here.

Friday’s verdict must have been a “come to the Savior” moment for legislators. The focus should be on what they plan to do moving forward. The expectations are in place; the people are watching.

Online:

https://www.gadsdentimes.com/

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June 12

The Dothan Eagle on public corruption:

Alabama’s reputation as one of the nation’s most politically corrupt states hit a high water mark with the conviction of now-former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard on 12 of 23 felony charges related to the use of his office for personal gain.

Alabamians had to know they were walking around knee-deep in dirty water, because that’s what we’ve been told.

We were told by a jury that convicted former Gov. Don Siegelman, a Democrat, and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy on bribery charges, and by a 2007 indictment of former Secretary of State Nancy Worley, another Democrat, on charges of soliciting staff support in her re-election campaign, and a 2009 conviction of former Rep. Sue Schmidt, another Democrat, on federal mail fraud and theft charges.

We were told by Hubbard himself in 2010 when Republicans made a successful play to seize control of the Alabama House for the first time since Reconstruction. Hubbard and others displayed great offense to what they characterized as a culture of corruption among Democrats. They soon passed a raft of revamped ethics laws, because we needed them.

Since then, we’ve been told about public corruption by the courts that sentenced former Rep. Terry Spicer, a Democrat, of Coffee County, lobbyist Jared Massey, and Country Crossing developer Ronnie Gilley to prison in 2012 for bribery. We were told by former Rep. Greg Wren, a Republican, of Montgomery who admitted using his office for personal gain in a deal to testify for the state. We were told by Harvard University’s Edmund J. Safra Center for Ethics, whose 2014 study found Alabama to be among the most corrupt in the nation.

And now Hubbard himself is convicted of a dozen felony corruption charges under the very fortified ethics laws he shepherded through the legislature.

Now we have a high water mark. Corruption is a culture in Montgomery, but it isn’t partisan. It’s a bittersweet, pivotal moment in Alabama’s history because it’s embarrassing, but instructive as well.

Voters should remember how Hubbard’s colleagues flocked to his side after his indictment, helping him win re-election to the House, then sending him back to the seat of power as House Speaker in a near unanimous vote. We must work on our memories, which seem to fail us on Election Day.

Lawmakers, too, should look at that mark on the wall and realize just how high the waters of corruption in our state have risen, and that their own work isn’t done until the floors of the statehouse, the governor’s suite and the halls of the judiciary are bone dry.

Online:

https://www.dothaneagle.com/


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