By BOB JOHNSON
The last time Republican Judge Roy Moore was chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court he had a somewhat rocky relationship with legislators who had to approve funding for the courts.
But Moore said he expects much smoother sailing when he begins a new term after a nine-year absence from the court.
He said that, at the time, he was only the second Republican to serve as Alabama chief justice in modern times. Furthermore, Democrats had held control of the Alabama Legislature for more than 140 years until the GOP won control of both the House and Senate in 2010.
With the defeat last week of Democratic Public Service Commissioner Lucy Baxley, all statewide elected positions in Alabama will be held by Republicans when new officials take office — making the political climate better for a Republican chief justice, Moore said. However, he said he would reach across the aisle.
“Whether Republican or Democrat, it’s in the best interest to adequately fund the court system,” Moore said.
The Republican chairman of the House General Fund budget committee, Jim Barton of Mobile, said he doesn’t anticipate any problems working with Moore.
“Absolutely it will be a smooth relationship. I am looking forward to working with him. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the courts,” said Barton, who was not on the budget committee when Moore was previously chief justice. Barton said he also worked well with former Democratic Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb.
Democratic State Rep. John Knight of Montgomery said not much has changed since Moore was last in the chief justice’s office.
“The state still doesn’t have a source of revenue to pay for the courts,” he said.
He said his impression was that Moore wanted every budget request funded, despite the fact the General Fund budget must fund other services such as prisons, Medicaid and state troopers.
“The only thing he wanted was more money,” Knight said of Moore.
Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard said he is optimistic about the relationship the Legislature will have with Moore.
“As a Republican, I’m sure Judge Moore shares our commitment to run all agencies of state government, including the judicial branch, as efficiently and effectively as possible while ensuring that taxpayers get quality services in return for the dollars they invest,” Hubbard said.
Former Senate education budget chairman Sen. Roger Bedford of Russellville said he doubts Moore will take directions from any legislative leader, whether it be a Democrat or a Republican.
But Bedford, a veteran Democrat, said he would work with “whoever the people elect” to make sure the courts are adequately funded.
Moore said he has started talking to both Republicans and Democrats about the transition to a new chief justice. He is also keeping a high profile in state law enforcement circles, including attending recent graduation ceremonies at the state police academy in Selma.