Legislature should boot its immunity
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 11, 2004
Last week, State Rep. Alvin Holmes (D-Montgomery) was stopped for weaving in and out of traffic on I-65 in Montgomery.
The deputy, who stopped him and then drove him home, said he smelled alcohol on the lawmaker.
Normally, we wouldn't take notice of this, except Holmes' behavior brought to light a vague Alabama law.
That law grants immunity to state legislators during a legislative session except for treason, felony, violation of their oath of office, and breach of the peace.
How often have the legislators used this obscure law?
How many "civilians" now sit in prison because they broke the same law as an immune lawmaker?
We're sure those who wrote the law never intended to keep those caught driving under the influence from being prosecuted.
Holmes maintains he wasn't drinking, but the deputy said otherwise.
It would take a vote of the people to remove this constitutional amendment, but we believe this is one that the people would support.
The civilians in this state do not get to hide behind this loophole in the law.
The same law that would send a "regular" person to jail, should also be used to punish lawbreaking lawmakers.
If the legislature is so worried about people missing votes, then rewrite the law but do not tie the hands of those enforcing the law.
If Holmes was indeed drinking and had hit someone or caused a wreck and someone had died, would he be liable or would the state pay?
Legislators are elected by the people to represent their constituency, but that doesn't mean they're above the law.
Maybe even worse than the legislation that allows our representatives to be above the law while in session, is Holmes' defense of the claim he was driving under the influence.
Instead of taking ownership of the situation and taking his lumps, Holmes pulls the race card and claims discrimination.
We're appalled that, in an attempt to cover his tracks and divert attention from himself, Holmes points his finger and cries racism.
Ultimately Holmes will reap what he sows as have so many people, black and white, when it comes to playing the race card.
And to our legislators, invoke legislation to change this outdated law. It's unnecessary, unfair and ties the hands of the law enforcement community who are trying to protect their own constituency; the people of Alabama.