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Alabama editorial roundup

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

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March 8

The TimesDaily on the effort to impeach Gov. Robert Bentley:

The future direction of an impeachment investigation by the Alabama House of Representatives remains uncertain after a committee meeting Tuesday to discuss concerns the political process could hamper any future criminal proceedings.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Mike Jones called the meeting after he received a letter from Ellen Brooks of the attorney general’s office. Brooks, who is leading the investigation of Gov. Robert Bentley, cited a 1933 Supreme Court case, State v. deGraffenreid, which held that the impeachment of an official could “bind the State of Alabama in a subsequent impeachment proceeding.”

Brooks urged the committee to be cautious in its course of action to avoid doing anything that could lead to a violation of the double jeopardy clause, which does not allow a person to be put on trial twice for the same crime.

Not all committee members are convinced their work would impede the attorney general’s probe. That feeling was evident in a failed motion on a tie vote to pause the Judiciary Committee’s public proceedings.

The double jeopardy concern is the latest stumbling block in the nearly year-long effort to impeach Bentley. The committee put its work on hold in November at the request of former state Attorney General Luther Strange, who indicated his office was looking into related matters.

The impeachment process is a learn-as-you-go process for state lawmakers. The Alabama House has not considered an impeachment case since 1915, when it considered impeaching Secretary of State John Purifoy. Purifoy was not impeached.

So what happens next? Jones has indicated the committee will hold several status meetings with the attorney general’s office special counsel before formulating a plan of action.

The House Judiciary Committee is tasked with deciding whether to recommend the impeachment of Bentley to the full House for a vote.

A Senate subcommittee is scheduled to meet Wednesday to set the ground rules for an impeachment trial in case the House passes an impeachment resolution.

If an impeachment resolution is ever passed by the House, the impeachment process would unfold as follows:

1) To pass, the impeachment resolution must receive 50 percent plus one vote out of those voting in the House. Once the resolution passes, Bentley would immediately be out of office temporarily. Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey would become acting governor.

2) The Senate would then conduct a trial. It would take a two-third’s majority vote of senators to convict Bentley.

3) If Bentley were convicted by the Senate, he would be out of office permanently without an appellate process. Ivey would remain governor until the remainder of Bentley’s term, which ends on Jan. 20, 2019.

4) If Bentley were acquitted by the Senate, he would resume his governorship, and Ivey would resume her term as lieutenant governor.

5) If the Senate got hung up, delayed or could not reach a decision, Ivey would continue as acting governor until the end of Bentley’s term.

No one knows at this point how this process will unfold. But Alabamians must be patient and let the process run its course. We’re breaking new ground, and it’s important that it’s done correctly, if it’s to be done at all.

Online:

http://www.timesdaily.com/

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March 7

The Dothan Eagle on selecting who should occupy Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ vacant Senate seat:

Last month, after then-U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions was confirmed as U.S. Attorney General and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley appointed state Attorney General Luther Strange to Sessions’ vacated Senate seat, State Auditor Jim Zeigler raised concerns about Bentley’s appointment of Strange instead of calling a special election. Sessions’ U.S. Senate term continues until 2020.

Ziegler called foul, pointing to Section 36-9-8 of the Code of Alabama, which appears to require the governor to hold a special election to fill the seat “forthwith.”

A Feb. 13 memorandum from the Alabama Legislative Reference Service also concludes that state law appears to require the governor to hold a special election to fill the vacant Sessions Senate seat “without delay at some time prior to the 2018 General Election.”

In what certainly appeared to be a thumbing of his nose at such suggestion, Bentley then established a timetable for a special election — not-so-coincidently coinciding with the regular primary election and general election dates in 2018.

This week Zeigler, as a taxpayer, voter, and as State Auditor, along with a co-plaintiff, voter, taxpayer and Conecuh County Democratic Executive Committee Chairman Tommy Chapman, filed suit against the governor in Montgomery County Circuit Court asking for a declaratory judgment to compel the governor to schedule a special election “as expeditiously as possible.” Zeigler’s and Chapman’s suit also asks that the court retain jurisdiction until after Bentley complies because “the Governor has defied Alabama law and defied the opinion of the Legislative Reference Service.”

It’s simply outrageous that Alabama taxpayers will be burdened with the unnecessary costs of litigation to ensure that Alabama law is followed in this instance.

Gov. Bentley, we urge you to follow the law and allow the people of Alabama to select who will represent them in Washington.

Remember who you serve.

Online:

http://www.dothaneagle.com/

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March 5

The Gadsden Times on Attorney General Jeff Sessions:

Does Attorney General Jeff Sessions wonder why he left the U.S. Senate, an exclusive club where decorum generally prevails?

Does he wish he were back home in Alabama, enjoying a little tranquility? (That, of course, would involve avoiding Montgomery, at least the parts connected with state government.)

He can’t be having a good time right now, caught in a literal crossfire between Democrats and Republicans in the latest side skirmish over alleged connections between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia.

Sessions in his confirmation hearing indicated to senators both in person and in writing that he’d had no communication with officials of the Russian government.

However, the Washington Post reported last week – and Sessions confirms – that he met twice last year with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Sessions insists he was acting in his role as a U.S. senator and member of the Armed Service Committee, not as part of the Trump campaign, and has noted that he met with more than two dozen foreign ambassadors last year.

However, bowing to pressure not just from Democrats but his own party, Sessions has agreed to recuse himself from any investigation of Russian involvement in the election.

We think he had no choice but to take that step, even though it hasn’t satisfied folks who are calling for his resignation.

It actually isn’t out of bounds for a senator or a congressman to meet with a foreign envoy. We’ll grant Sessions that. It differentiates this situation from that of Michael Flynn, who was forced out as national security adviser over similar reports of Russian contacts when he was merely a retired Army general and lobbyist.

However, we question the tone-deafness, if not the wisdom, of someone who overlooks or omits such details in the present noisy environment. That’s especially true for someone like Sessions, who signed onto the Trump movement early and was one of his most vocal and dedicated backers throughout the campaign.

No politician anywhere was more linked to Trump in his push for the White House.

There might have been similar outrage if Sessions had revealed the meetings, but again he could’ve offered justification – something that doesn’t play as well when you’re ‘fessing up weeks after the fact.

Some may question our use of “noise” to describe the search for answers on the existence and the extent of any nefarious activity from Moscow to flip the election a certain way.

Let us be clear: Questions about that subject need to be asked and answered, quickly, regardless of where they lead, or else the recent gridlock in Washington is going to look like the nerve center of an average bee hive.

The problem is, Trump’s supporters are convinced that this whole deal is just an attempt to sully the legitimacy of his campaign and prevent him from doing that which they elected him to do.

The problem also is, some of the loudest Trump opponents actually seem focused on that path – on doing whatever it takes, by any means necessary, hanging scalps one by one on their metaphoric spears, to bring Trump down and stop his agenda.

It’s the polarization that we’ve often spoken of – the Armageddon-like confrontation between groups that have completely divergent ideals of what the U.S. should be, and are playing for keeps.

We think the only way for an investigation of Russian electoral meddling in the U.S. – and there should be one – to be effective and legitimate is for it to be divorced completely from politics.

Good luck on that happening.

Online:

http://www.gadsdentimes.com/

Copyright © 2017 The Washington Times, LLC.

Source: www.washingtontimes.com stories: Politics

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