State Republicans sponsor bill that would change special election laws


2 sister bills that have been prefiled for the 2018 Alabama Legislative Session would effectively eliminate the need for special elections in most cases of a U.S. Senate Seat vacancy, like the one recently filled by Doug Jones in a special election process.

One of the bills, SB-18, is sponsored by District 13 Senator Gerald Dial, who says the bill would save money by clarifying the language of the current law that’s been dubbed confusing by lawmakers in both parties.

“We’re not a rich state. We don’t have an abundance of money to be spending on a primary, a runoff, and a general election,” Dial said.

The most recent special election will cost the State of Alabama $15 million, according to Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, who estimates a $5 million cost for each of the 3 part election cycle that was just completed.

The bill “would require the Governor to appoint a person to a vacancy in the office of United States Senator and issue a writ of election to fill the office for the remainder of the term at the next general election occurring more than one year after the vacancy occurs.”

Democratic Representative John Rogers believes the bill is politically motivated, and argues the bill is a “knee-jerk reaction” to Doug Jones winning the special election against Republican challenger Roy Moore. Rogers believes the bill is not intended to save the state money.

“I’ve been there 30 something years, we’ve always found money. It came down from heaven or something when they want to find it. It just fell down on the floor. All this is is a Doug Jones reaction bill,” Rogers said.

Existing state law instructs that a special election is to be held “forthwith” following the appointment of a Senate candidate when a vacancy in the office occurs. Different interpretations of that language have been seen within the Republican Party. Former Governor Robert Bentley, who appointed Luther Strange in early 2016, argued that the election should be held at the time of the next general election. Governor Kay Ivey swiftly called for a special election when she assumed office after Bentley resigned, interpreting the law to mean an election must be held immediately.

Despite Rogers opposition, Dial contends this bill is strictly about saving money.

“Governor Ivey did exactly right. We’re not just talking about this election, we’re talking about future elections down the road, whoever he or she may be. We’re talking about saving the taxpayer 5 million dollars of hard earned tax money,” Dial said.

The 2018 Legislative Session convenes on January 9 in Montgomery.

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