HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) -- Alabama Rep. Phil Williams wants to replace House Speaker Mike Hubbard, who has now been asked to “suspend” himself from that role by the Alabama Republican Party Steering Committee.
Williams represents parts of Madison and Limestone counties. He said he voted for Hubbard in 2010 and 2014 for the speakership
But Williams said legislation introduced last year during two legislative special sessions was designed to aid Hubbard’s legal case. Both bills were ultimately defeated, but Williams decided the Alabama Legislature could do better.
Hubbard is facing a 23-count indictment in Lee County on charges he violated state ethics laws and used his office for personal gain. The trial is set for March 28, but a recent withdrawal by Hubbard’s lead attorney could affect the trial schedule.
Williams is advocating reform, including reducing the power of the Speaker’s office by letting legislators form the various House committees and then letting those members vote for the committee chair. He said reforming the way the House does business would be good for the Republican Party and good for Alabama.
“Don’t send me or anybody back into that same system,” Williams said. “Because it can lead to all kinds of problems. We need to change the system, to take power away from the role of Speaker of the House. Get it back to the members, which in turn is getting it closer to the people.
“That would work better. Other states have done that. We need to follow suit.”
The Alabama Republican Party’s announcement said that it didn’t want the distractions of Hubbard’s trial to take away from the work of the Legislature.
Williams said he believes it would be very difficult to face a criminal trial and function effectively as speaker.
“The role of Speaker would have to require anybody to have 100 percent focus on the business of the House,” Williams said, “which is the business of the people of Alabama. And I don’t think anybody could have that focus and deal with what the current speaker is dealing with.”
Hubbard’s office sent out a statement this morning blasting the steering committee’s decision. It said there are still motions pending before the court about a possible continuance in the case. The statement reads in part, “(Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan’s) request is both ill-advised and premature, but this effort on her part is about something else entirely.
“During last year's budget crisis, Lathan was pushing for a shutdown of state government, and when the Legislature did the responsible thing and funded essential taxpayer services, she and a small group of her followers became angry. Her request is simply a symptom of lingering resentment against the leadership. The fact that Lathan’s resolution was approved in a hastily called Sunday night telephone call with less than half the Steering Committee voting in favor shows she was desperate and lacked widespread support.”
Williams said currently in Alabama the House Speaker is elected to a four-year term. In order to displace Hubbard, House members would first have to vote to “vacate the chair.” A second vote would then be required, asking for nominees to the speakership.
Williams said Alabama House members should elect the Speaker on an annual basis.
“The way it’s currently operated is a four-year term,” he said. “Now the state constitution originally called for every time we go into session, and I do plan to stress that we would do better if we held speakers accountable every year, instead of every four years.”
Williams said GOP House members begin meeting next week.
The Alabama Legislature is set to begin the 2016 session on February 2.