Has Federalism gone awash?
The theory of dual federalism holds that the federal and state governments are co-equals, each sovereign in its own right. Under this theory, sections of the Constitution are interpreted narrowly, such as the Tenth Amendment, the Supremacy Clause, the Necessary and Proper Clause, and the Commerce Clause. Under this narrow interpretation, the federal government has jurisdiction only if the Constitution clearly grants such and suggests there is a large body of power that belongs to the states; the federal government being limited to only those powers explicitly listed in the Constitution.
Democratic legislators believe that broad principle which has governed federalism in this Nation since its inception, was violated by the Department of Justice and the U. S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama last week by conducting an investigation of the vote on bingo legislation and intimidating legislators and lobbyists with subpoenas, questioning, surveilance and “wired” informants.
“It was rampant interference by the federal government into the legislative process in Alabama,” one senator told me.
Democratic lawmakers have said they believe the mission was requested of U. S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, Leura Canary, by Gov. Bob Riley. Riley has denied that. Canary is a holdover appointment of President George W. Bush and she and her husband are close friends with Bush advisor Karl Rove, who is thought to have secured the federal position for Canary. It is also interesting that one of the law firms which has represented Rove is the former firm of the current attorney general, Eric Holder. Although some wonder how, Alabama’s two U. S. Senators, Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions have also been instrumental in the 15-month delay in replacing Canary by President Obama.
It is our understanding that Montgomery lawyer George Beck is currently being vetted by the Obama Administration as Canary’s replacement, but the vetting and the confirmation process could perhaps take another six months. In the meantime State Democratic leaders believe that merely gives Canary a half-year to, as they say, “conduct a witchhunt during an election campaign.”
But some Republican legislators have said they are cooperating with the federal investigation into the possibility that such offers were involved in the effort to pass or defeat the bill that would have allowed a referendum on electronic bingo.
Sen. Steve French, a Mountain Brook Republican, has said that before the Senate vote on bingo he was made “offers” he considered inappropriate. French has stated that the offers came as the Senate was nearing a critical vote on the Bingo Bill, which passed the upper legislative chamber March 30 on a 21-13 vote. He doesn’t say who made the offers. French was one of the 13 senators who voted against the bill.
Asked by The Birmingham News what he was offered and if he considered the offers to be bribes, French read this prepared statement: “Prior to the gambling vote, certain offers were made to me that I thought were inappropriate. I called the authorities and shared this information. An investigation has clearly resulted and I continue to freely cooperate with authorities and share any information I have.” A veteran lawmaker, French said the offers made to him went well beyond what he considered the normal efforts to persuade a lawmaker to vote a given way. He declined to say if the offers came from a fellow legislator or a lobbyist.
People can vote on Road Bill
The proposed vote on Bingo failed, but the November election will see a vote on a 10-Year, Billion Dollar Road Bill to be funded by the Alabama Trust Fund at the rate of $100-million-a-year. It was guided through the session by Sen. Lowell Barron of Fyffe and Rep. Billy Beasley of Clayton and approved on the final day of the session after a conference committee of the two houses concurred on changes.
The bill provides that $75 million annually would be distributed to the State Department of Transportation and that at least $5 million must be used in each congressional district. There are, however, some caveats. Jefferson County will receive $1 million each year from the Sixth and Seventh Congressional District funds for mass transit.
The remaining money would be spent in each county – 45 percent equally and 55 percent on the basis of population. The remaining $25 million each year would be distributed to counties and municipalities for new construction and maintenance in the same manner as state gasoline proceeds are distributed.
Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent. Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org