There ought to be a law

 

 

By Jeff Martin

Often times the things that appear simple to do and make the most sense are the toughest to get accomplished and there’s no better example than in the Alabama Legislature.

 It isn’t any wonder that almost a dozen legislators, a governor and a sitting chief justice have been indicted, convicted or removed from office in just the last couple of years. Alabama elected officials mimic the fox guarding the hen house and more often than not they devour the hens.

 Unfortunately, it is pretty easy to legally purchase a sitting legislator if you have the means to do so. Take for instance former Rep. Oliver Robinson, who we learned during the recent corruption trial in Birmingham had been receiving ‘six figures’ from Regions Bank for ‘consulting,’ while serving in the legislature. Coincidentally before his resignation, Robinson sat on the House Financial Services Committee, which deals with banking and lending legislation. Robinson testified Regions never asked anything of him, but somehow I don’t imagine Robinson ever considered anything other than what benefited his ‘consulting’ client, as opposed to what benefited his constituency.

   State Senator Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills), who has served in the legislature for half a century, has 11 consulting contracts with various businesses that pay him hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, but current laws don’t even require him to tell us who is paying him or exactly how much for his ‘consulting’ services.

  And I could go on and on with examples of legislators who have financially benefited by serving in this part-time public service position. And it is often legal by keeping it simple with just winks and nods.

  Every elected official should be in favor of the strongest of ethics laws, yet somehow the legislature, the governor, the attorney general; all never find a way to get us there.  And those occasional times when they do provide a dog and pony show as election time nears, we later learn the devil is in the details and they’ve fooled us again.

  There ought to be a law requiring candidates to disclose every campaign donation received. Who would be against such a law? Insert laughing emoji. 

  All campaign contributions should be reported and available to the public. Our own attorney general and countless other elected officials are supported financially by who knows who because they even find ways to circumvent what current laws we do have that require disclosure and transparency.

  There ought to be a law that requires political candidates to remove campaign signs from public property and right-of-ways after elections.

 There ought to be a much stronger Open Meetings and Open Records Law.

  There ought to be a law requiring political advertising to be truthful.

  There ought to be a law requiring the inspection of dams.

  Did you know there are more than 2,200 dams in Alabama and we are the ONLY state that does not require dams to be inspected? It isn’t a matter of if, but when a major dam will fail and potentially killing those in its path. But, I’m here to tell you that no such law will pass in my lifetime.

 There ought to be a law preventing a child from riding in the back of a pickup truck on public streets. It makes absolutely no sense, considering our current seat belt laws. But, believe it or not, there are some lobbying interests, with big wallets, that don’t want such a law to exist. And so it doesn’t.

  And finally, there ought to be a law that Chick-fil-A is open on Sundays. But, somethings can’t be legislated.

 In a perfect world, all politicians would be required to embark down the Yellow Brick Road. In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy meets and befriends the Scarecrow, who wants a brain, the Tin Woodman, who desires a heart, and the Cowardly Lion, who is in need of courage. All characteristics found lacking by many Alabama politicians.

  But, what I desire most from decision makers is character. Because character is determined by how you treat those who can do nothing for you. And it’s something that should be exemplified by everyone elected to public office.

Puppies over Politics

 

 

By Jeff Martin

They’re cute, cuddly, curious and adorably clumsy. Who doesn’t love a puppy?

    My family gained an addition last month when we welcomed a new chocolate Labrador Retriever into our home. Olivia named him Sebastian McGehee Martin, to be known henceforth as ‘Sebby.’ He turned 12-weeks old Monday and our household hasn’t been the same since his arrival.

   Of course it was 11-year old Olivia who wanted a dog and me who got stuck with all the responsibilities of puppy ownership.

    Some say caring for a Lab puppy can be tougher than a newborn. Mind you, having never cared for an infant, I wouldn’t dare make the comparison, just making note that some have. And those that have; I think they knew what they were talking about. It isn’t easy.

 

I’m here to tell you that sleep deprivation is the devil. I’m one that needs 8, preferably 9 hours of sleep most nights. For the past month, I’ve been lucky to catch 5 and maybe another 45-minute nap sometime before lunch. I have become quite the walking zombie and just this week finally went back to sleeping a few hours each night in the bedroom, instead of a makeshift pallet next to his kennel.

    Sebby, like most puppies, is quick with the bite and by week two my arms looked like a swarm of water moccasins had attacked. I have since become pretty quick at fending off the teething hellion.

    He knows better, but that has yet to stop him from flying up the stairs, which he isn’t able yet to make back down on his own.  He understands wrong and right, but that just makes getting stuff away from him more difficult. I’m proud to say he is housebroken and will go sit by a backdoor when he wants outside.

    He has moves like Mick Jagger, as proven during his first attempt on a leash that had him bouncing around as if he had stumbled into a yellow jacket nest.

    The furniture remains intact, for now, as the only Sebby casualties have been a phone charger cord; a couple of magazines and several pots and plants. He enjoys leaves, sticks and pebbles as if it were chewing tobacco.

    The intoxicating smell of new puppy has evaporated, he has already doubled in size, his energy level (when not napping) is that of the energizer bunny and they say the teething stage has only just begun. But, we love our Sebby.

    For better or worse he is now and will forever be a Martin and I have no doubt he will reward us with years of loyal companionship. Assuming of course, we survive the puppy stage.  

Will Ivey debate? Don’t count on it

 

 

By Jeff Martin

The General Election is a little more than 3-months away, providing a much-needed reprieve from the misleading political blurbs that have blanketed our televisions, radios and computer screens for the past several months.  But the campaigning for candidates who won their primary will continue, although typically things don’t really ramp up until Labor Day weekend.

    Expect to see and hear a lot from Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Walt Maddox and a lot less from his opponent, Gov. Kay Ivey, whose strategy appears to be the duck and cover approach when not at events controlled by her campaign staff.

     Maddox addressed the Alabama Press Association at their annual summer convention in Gulf Shores this past weekend.    Ivey, who has attended the event many times in years past, declined her invite leaving those who cover Alabama politics scratching their heads. Not really, every political writer in the state is aware that Ivey has no intention of debating or sharing a stage with her Democratic opponent. And the last thing she wants is to be confronted by a bunch of newspaper publishers.

     Maddox, took the opportunity at the convention to announce his comprehensive ethics plan, along with challenging Gov. Ivey to four debates: one based on issues of education and economic development; one on health care, mental health, and infrastructure; and two styled as a town hall, one in a major Alabama city and another in a rural Alabama county.

     I anticipate Ivey will continue to hem-and-haw with excuses to avoid facing off with Maddox, as she did with her GOP opponents in the primary election.

 

The verdict is in

     Last Friday in the federal corruption case in Birmingham the jury found Balch & Bingham partner Joel Gilbert and Drummond Company Vice President David Roberson guilty of bribing former legislator Oliver Robinson (D-Birmingham).

    U.S. District Judge Abdul Kollan, earlier last week, dismissed the charges against a second Balch & Bingham attorney.

    Roberson and Gilbert face a maximum sentence of 10 years for each of the six counts they were found guilty. Robinson, who pled guilty last year of accepting bribes, will be sentenced at the end of September. 

     “This was a case about greed at the expense of too many,” said U.S. Attorney Jay Towns stated in a prepared release after the verdict.

    Despite me and others ranting about this trial for the past month and considering everything that was revealed during the trial through witnesses, even the most casual observer might think this is just the tip of the iceberg in prosecuting others for political corruption. Maybe even hold our state agencies and elected officials more responsible to the needs of their constituency as opposed to those who fill the campaign coffers with cash. But, it won’t. Winks and nods, backroom deals and the good old boy network will continue as always.

 

There ought to be a law

     They are nailed to trees along interstates and back roads. Stuck in medians, at various intersections in towns and cities across the state. Plastered up and down exit on-ramps. Some even hang from overpasses. I’m speaking of the dreaded campaign signs that litter our roadways long after the elections have concluded.

    I give Kudos to former Lt. Gov. candidate Rusty Glover who spent the 3-weeks after the primary elections traveling the state removing his political signs. 

     Hopefully other candidates will follow Glover’s lead, but I’m not holding my breath. I imagine we will continue to see signs from various candidates littering the right-of-ways for years to come. It wouldn’t surprise me to have a grandchild ask 20 years in the future who Twinkle is, as we make our way down I-65 headed to the beach.

 

The end of an era

     With almost 70 years of legislative service between them, Montgomery legislators Alvin Holmes and John Knight will not be returning to the statehouse when the legislature reconvenes in January.  Holmes, the longest serving member of the legislature, has been pretty much missing in action for the past year due to health issues, was defeated by political newcomer Kirk Hatcher.

     Knight gave up his House seat to run for the Senate seat vacated by Quinton Ross, but was defeated by Sen. David Burkette in the Democratic Primary election. Burkette already defeated Knight once for the seat in an earlier special election.

     Tashina Morris, another political newcomer, will take over Knight’s House seat, after defeating insurance agent Malcolm Calhoun.