Ala. Supreme Court asked to rule quickly on bill

Phillip Rawls, Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- Attorneys for Republican legislative leaders have asked the Alabama Supreme Court to expedite a ruling on whether the governor can sign legislation providing tax credits for attending private school.

A Montgomery judge has temporarily blocked Gov. Robert Bentley from signing the bill while the judge considers a lawsuit filed by the Alabama Education Association.

Republican legislative leaders are appealing that. Their attorneys, Marc James Ayers and Christopher Weller, filed court papers Thursday saying the judge's order needs to be removed quickly because it "represents an unprecedented violation of the separation of powers."

AEA attorney James Anderson said the teachers' group is asking the Supreme Court to dismiss the appeal and let Montgomery County Circuit Judge Charles Price hear evidence at a hearing set for March 15. Anderson said there is no harm in maintaining the status quo until that hearing.

But attorneys for the Republican legislators said the matter can't drag on too long. They said the bill will be dead if not signed by the governor when the current legislative session has to end May 20.

The bill would provide tax credits for parents who chose to enroll their children in private schools rather than failing public schools. It also provides tax credits for individuals and businesses that contribute money for scholarships for families that want to make the move to private school, but can't afford the tuition.

AEA's suit argues that the Legislature violated its own operational rules and the state's open meetings law when it passed the bill Feb. 28. One of the defendants, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said the bill provides an opportunity for students in failing schools to get a better education and it gives an incentive to failing schools to improve to keep from losing students.