New Impeachment Process Likely Spares Gov Bentley

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The state of Alabama has codified an impeachment process for governors, a seemingly-basic legislative function that was somehow left out of the country’s longest constitution more than a century ago. Although the salacious ethics scandal surrounding Gov. Robert Bentley’s alleged affair with his political adviser spurred the House of Representatives to action, this change actually delays impeachment efforts that were already in progress. Via the Montgomery Advertiser:

[Rep. Matt] Fridy’s resolution sets up several milestones before the House can impeach a constitutional officer. Attempts to impeach a sitting official would need the support of at least 21 members of the House. The House Judiciary Committee would then examine them and eventually vote on whether to refer the articles to the full House for a vote. At least 63 members of the House — three-fifths of the body, the same margin to pass a constitutional amendment — would have to vote to allow articles of impeachment to come to the floor for a vote. After that, an impeachment article could pass on a majority vote.

[…] Rep. Ed Henry, R-Hartselle, who filed impeachment articles against Bentley on April 5, said it would bottle up efforts, currently in the Rules Committee. Henry got 11 members to sign his articles of impeachment. But under an amendment brought by House Rules Chairman Mac McCutcheon, R-Huntsville, he would need at least 10 more to move the articles forward, and might also need votes to move them from Rules to Judiciary.

“I have to believe his only intention was to stall and prolong and eventually prevent the impeachment of Gov. Robert Bentley,” Henry said after the vote. “I don’t see any other reason to work as diligently as we have over the last three weeks on making this as workable as possible and then turn around at the 11th hour.”

Alabama’s legislature holds only one annual 30-day session, and the current session is drawing to a close this week. Rep. Henry doubts that he can meet the new threshold in time for the legislature to act, telling ABC 33/40 “I think they have definitely put a nail in the coffin and probably buried [impeachment] six feet deep, so to resurrect it at this point will be monumental and it’s disappointing.”

Despite compelling evidence of abuse of power, the legislature has effectively punted impeachment a year into the future. Bentley hopes that momentum for impeachment declines before the legislature meets again, and he is probably right.

Meanwhile, a federal investigation of his use of state assets to conduct the alleged affair is reportedly underway, but state laws don’t force Bentley from office until he is actually convicted.

Notably not quoted in the press was Speaker Mike Hubbard, whose lawyers are currently arguing for another delay in his corruption trial. Confirmation of Bentley’s rumored affair with Rebekah Caldwell Mason emerged after Bentley fired the state’s top cop for supplying an affidavit to the prosecution in Hubbard’s case.

Image: Flickr.

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