New House rules put Jones in center of possible impeachment process [with update]
Published 12:50 am Thursday, April 28, 2016
Editor’s note: At noon Thursday, word from the statehouse was that there are now 22 signatures on the articles of impeachment, which means the issue will go to the Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Jones. Rep. Moore from Coffee County was among those signing the articles.
A rule change approved Tuesday in Alabama’s House of Representatives would put Rep. Mike Jones square in the middle of an impeachment process.
The Andalusia Republican chairs the House Judiciary Committee, to which impeachment issues are assigned under the rules adopted this week.
Rep. Ed Henry, R-Hartselle, filed impeachment articles against Gov. Robert Bentley on April 5 following allegations that the governor had an inappropriate relationship with a former staffer.
On Tuesday, the House adopted rules that require 21 signatures of House members – 10 more than Henry had earlier this month – to file articles of impeachment. With 21 signatures, those articles would then go to the House Judiciary Committee, which would hold hearings. If the committee approved the articles, they would then move to the full House for consideration. A three-fifths majority (63 votes) would be required to move the articles to the Senate. The Senate has yet to establish a similar process.
Late Wednesday night, Jones, who was still working in his Montgomery office, said chairing such a hearing is not a role he sought.
“I never sought this role,” he said. “I’m not looking for publicity. But in early discussions, it became clear I would be asked to chair hearings.”
Because it appeared highly likely he would be in that role if articles were brought forward, he stayed out of the rule-making process and debate, he said.
“I actually was over in the Senate working on some bills when this came up (Tuesday), ” he said.
“My personal opinion was that we’re not professional investigators,” he said. “ Others are, and they are investigating the governor. Let’s let the trained investigators get finished first. Of course, if there is action to be taken as a result of that, we should.”
Jones said even if the governor is not impeached, the talk of impeachment made it clear that there was not a clear structure in place for such proceedings.
“Even if we don’t use it with this governor, it has been brought in to the open that there was a weakness in the rules, and we now have a process,” he said.
Jones said if Henry finds the additional signatures needed, chairing the hearings would not be a joyful experience.
“These allegations took place two years ago,” he said. “He has continued to be the governor of the state. In those two years, we’ve had legislative sessions, he’s worked on bringing jobs to the state, and he’s represented the state around the nation.”
Nonetheless, he said, the chair of any committee has to do things he sometimes does not personally want to do.
The legislature has three meeting days left in its 2016 regular session. It is scheduled to meet today, and two days next week.