The Alabama Education Association filed a lawsuit late Monday evening seeking to block HB 84, the Accountability Act that would extend tax credits to families in failing schools who put their children in public schools.
The action, filed in Montgomery County Circuit Court, seeks a restraining order against the act, saying the process of passage violated the state’s Open Meetings Act.
A hearing on the motion is set for 1:30 p.m. today. Montgomery County Circuit Judge Charles Price issued an order late Tuesday morning forbidding the Legislature from transmitting the bill to Gov. Robert Bentley for signature.
The suit names Bentley, Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey and five lawmakers as defendants: Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston; House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn; Rep. Jay Love, R-Montgomery, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Education Committee; Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville and Rep. Chad Fincher, R-Semmes. House Clerk Jeff Woodard is also named in the suit, but the filing does not allege either he or Bentley violated the Open Meetings Act.
The Legislature passed the bill Thursday after Republican lawmakers substituted a drastically rewritten version of the bill in a conference committee. The suit argues Marsh, Fincher, Dial and Love met privately to plan the changes to the bill, and kept Democratic members of the conference committee, the media and interested members of the public waiting.
“No other reasonable explanation exists for these four (lawmakers) to leave a committee meeting discussing a nine-page bill and return less than two hours later and approve a new bill, with a different title and different provisions, which each appeared familiar with, and which each voted to approve with limited discussion,” the suit says.
Marsh’s office released a brief statement on the suit Tuesday morning.
“It’s unfortunate that anyone would try to stop a bill that gives students in failing schools more options to receive a quality education,” the statement said.
Messages left with the offices of Bentley and Hubbard were not immediately returned Tuesday morning.
The suit argues the meeting of the four lawmakers constituted a secret meeting that violated the appropriate state law. The suit further argues that with its tax credits, the legislation constitutes an appropriation bill, and that changing the bill violated Rule 21 of the Joint Rules of the Alabama Legislature.
The suit seeks to block Woodard from enrolling or transmitting the legislation to Bentley. The governor’s office has said Bentley plans to sign the bill today.
– posted by Brian Lyman