TRO prevents signing of Alabama Accountability Act for now - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

TRO prevents signing of Alabama Accountability Act for now

Posted: Updated:
MONTGOMERY - AL -

A Montgomery judge will decide Wednesday whether to extend the temporary restraining order against the legislature. That order prevents the Alabama Accountability Act from going to the governor for his signature.

Some lawmakers are calling the temporary restraining order a legal Hail Mary. But others hope this will give the governor time to reconsider his signing the current bill.

In seemingly record time, Republicans turned the school flexibility bill into the Alabama Accountability Act and had it passed.

Senator Quinton Ross was one of only two Democrats on the joint conference committee charged with creating a compromise school flexibility bill. He testified in court Tuesday about Republicans introducing the nine page flex bill then recessing without any debate. When Senators Gerald Dial and Del Marsh and Representatives Jay Love and Chad Fincher returned, he says they introduced a 20- some page Alabama Accountability Act of 2013.

Attorneys for the lawmakers weren't in court over the lawsuit filed by an AEA employee over violation of open meeting law. But attorneys for Lt. Governor Kay Ivey who is also named in the suit argued the court had no jurisdiction. They also contend open meeting law was not violated when the bill later passed the House and Senate, so no prior instances count.

But Ross told the judge the new bill made substantial change and introduced new items that weren't part of the House or Senate bills. He said that violated Rule 21.

But Ivey's attorneys believe lawmakers can disregard and break their own rules.

For now, a temporary restraining order is in place until a judge decides whether to proceed on the open meeting law issue.

That temporary restraining order may have time on someone else's side.

"Slowing down the process is good because it will give the governor time to consider the issues," said Sally Howell of the Alabama Association of School Boards.

The Alabama Association of School Boards along with the Alabama State Department of Education, submitted a list of concerns about giving students in failing schools the option of transferring. The issues include questions about enough funding for local schools, handling transportation for students to other schools, and the broad range of students eligible for tax credits.

"This is a bad way to create public policy. We were working hard on the school flex bill and it changed dramatically all of a sudden," said Howell.

The governor realizes it's not the perfect piece of legislation. But would he change it?

"It is not my plan today. If I sign it today, I will not put any executive amendments on it," said Governor Robert Bentley.

When asked if he would consider changes with more time, he replied,"I'm not going to say that."

The Democrats and some Republicans want to change it. But House Republicans say that will have to wait until they can attempt to get control of the Statehouse again.

"People were bamboozled, run amuck by yet again another bad Republican bill and we have to stop these processes from going on," said Representative Juandalynn Givan, (D) Pratt City.

The AEA employee lawsuit contends open meeting law was violated when the Republicans left the conference committee. There were enough to hold a quorum.

The judge is expected to make a decision Wednesday.

Several Republicans issued statements about the temporary restraining order, including two named in the lawsuit.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said, "unfortunately union bosses are attempting to disrupt the legislative process in order to serve their own selfish interests – to the detriment of every child trapped in a failing school."

He goes on to say,"we are very confident that the passage of this bill was consistent with both the House and Senate's governing rules."

"The recent lawsuit is the first of what I anticipate to be many continued efforts by some to exhaust every possible avenue to prevent true education reform in Alabama," said Lt. Governor Kay Ivey in a statement. " The passage of the Accountability Act in the Alabama Legislature was a bold and courageous move to help ensure that every child in Alabama has access to a quality education."

If the temporary restraining order is lifted, the governor will have to wait until the legislature reconvenes on Thursday morning to sign the bill into law.