Judge extends order to block signing of controversial Ala. schoo - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Judge extends order to block signing of controversial Ala. school flex bill

Sen. Quinton Ross [D-Montgomery] and AEA attorney James Anderson meet with reporters following the judge's decision. Sen. Quinton Ross [D-Montgomery] and AEA attorney James Anderson meet with reporters following the judge's decision.

Montgomery Circuit Judge Charles Price has granted an injunction blocking Alabama House Bill 84, the controversial school flexibility bill that the GOP supermajority pushed through the legislature last week, from being sent to Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, who had promised to sign it into law.

Judge Price said the bill's original purpose changed and it cannot be transmitted to the governor's office for final approval. Democrats held the ruling as a victory.

Republicans immediately filed an appeal with the Alabama Supreme Court seeking to lift the injunction.

The court had scheduled an 8:30 a.m. hearing on the matter, but attorneys for Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh and Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey, defendants in the case, filed briefs late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning with motions to dismiss the case as well as additional arguments.

The judge delayed his ruling on the temporary restraining order against the clerks of the House and Senate, as well as top legislative leaders, until Wednesday afternoon, saying he wanted to read their motion.

In returning to the bench, Judge Price dismissed Lt. Gov. Ivey from the case and set a hearing on HB 84 for Friday, March 15.

"Today's ruling was judicial activism at its worst," said Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh. "What we're seeing is that union bosses and special interest groups will stop at nothing to protect the status quo."  

Attorneys for the Alabama Education Association filed their motion for an injunction Monday morning, the day the bill was set to be transmitted to the governor according to legislative procedures. After the suit was filed, Judge Price enjoined the Clerk of the House from enrolling the bill, delaying it from being signed into law.

The AEA argued that the Alabama Open Meetings Act was violated when the bill was hastily passed with sweeping changes on February 28. House Bill 84 had been debated since the session began as a bill that would allow local school systems to apply for waivers from the State Board of Education from some state laws. It had been a nine page bill but a conference committee added about 20 pages to it.

[DOCUMENTRead the School Flex Bill (.pdf)]

Attorneys for the AEA told the judge that when the conference committee was formed of House and Senate members, four Republicans and two Democrats, that the Republicans recessed the meeting and met privately to make drastic changes to the bill which included the tax credits. Lawyers alleged the Open Meetings Act was violated because a quorum of conference committee members, the four Republicans, met secretly away from public view to make the changes.

But representatives of Lt. Gov Kay Ivey argued that no such law or rule was broken and they argued that the rules of the legislature are not subject to decisions made by the judicial branch. Rep. Joe Hubbard, D – Montgomery, testified during the hearing that he had no direct knowledge that a meeting took place or what was said during the alleged meeting of Republicans.

Republican said before the ruling that if Judge Price upheld his restraining order, they were ready to challenge his decision in court.

"We are committed to providing parents and students in failing schools with better options to receive a quality education," Sen. Marsh said, "and will immediately be appealing this ruling to the Alabama Supreme Court."

WSFA 12 News will have more information on this developing story in our afternoon newscasts as well as on WSFA.COM as that information becomes available.

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