MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WHNT) – Groups fighting the passage of the Alabama Accountability Act have won more time for now.
Wednesday, Montgomery Circuit Judge Charles Price granted a temporary restraining order to keep Governor Robert Bentley from signing the bill.
The judge heard testimony from several witnesses Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning. Judge Price ruled based on the evidence, it appears the plaintiff has a valid claim to move forward.
The plaintiff, Lynn Pettway, filed a complaint earlier this week alleging the Alabama House and Senate violated the Alabama Open Meetings Act when they passed the school voucher bill last Thursday evening.
“The judge mentioned that not only did they violate their own rules, they also are in violation of the state constitution that says you can’t take a bill and introduce it as a bill and say it’s about one thing and substitute it with a different bill,” said James Anderson, an attorney for the plaintiff.
The judge’s order prevents the House Clerk, Jeff Woodard, from delivering the bill to Governor Bentley for signing.
Judge Price scheduled the next hearing on this matter for March 15 at 10:15 a.m.
Reactions quickly poured Wednesday afternoon.
“The ruling is a ridiculous unconstitutional overreach by the judicial branch and an insult to the students trapped in failing schools and the parents who want to give their children a better education,” said Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard. “I am confident that a higher court will see the flaws with this patently political ruling.”
Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said the ruling was ‘judicial activism at its worst.’
“What we’re seeing is that union bosses and special interest groups will stop at nothing to protect the status quo,” said Senator Marsh. “We are committed to providing parents and students in failing schools with better options to receive a quality education and will immediately be appealing this ruling to the Alabama Supreme Court.”
Other groups expressed support for the ruling, including the Alabama Democratic Party.
“We want to make sure this law was passed ethically and fairly,” said John Sawyer, Finance Director for the Party. “People can scream and yell about judicial activism all they like, but the judge is just doing his job. If there is any indication this was passed unfairly, it’s worth it to the people of Alabama to explore what went down.”