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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Bert Nettles, July 13, 1974. Interview A-0015. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Doug Hale supports governmental reform

Nettles credits Doug Hale, a young state representative, with having enabled the passage of the ethics law proposed by Common Cause, a nonprofit advocacy organization founded in 1970 that had little support in Alabama. To do so, Nettles said, Hale took a great political risk, demonstrating his character and honesty.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Bert Nettles, July 13, 1974. Interview A-0015. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

Comment on Doug Hale, who's a young engineer who is now completing his law school work in Cumberlandin Birmingham. Has several accomplishments. He is the person, I think, who deserves the most credit for getting the ethics law passed through the Alabama legislature. If you're familiar with this . . . . It's the common cause ethics bill and it's probably the strongest ethics law of any state in the country. So strong that the courts are just emasculating it daily. They're letting out one group after another. And soon only going to apply to the legislators, is my prediction. But it was in committee. The speaker of the house . . . . The senate had voted it, had killed it. Common cause bill that had been introduced into the senate by senator George Lewisand Richard Dominick. The house bill was in an unfavorable committee that was dominated by former house speaker Rankin Fite. Speaker had placed it in that committee to ensure its death. Was very much opposed to it himself and said that he would not run for re-election if it passed. And he's not running for re-election. In any event, the committee refused . . . finally forced the committee to have a meeting. Doug Hale was a co-sponsor of the bill. Helped draft it and was one of the two sponsors of it. Representative Hill of Florence was the man whose name appeared first on it, but he began to sort of back off when he saw the hostility of the house leadership, legislative leadership generally, to the bill. So Doug, contrary to the advice of most people, took the floor on the last possible day to force the bill out of committee and something that had never been done in modern times in the house. Force a bill to be voted out of a committee. There is a procedure under the house rules for this, but it had-
JACK BASS:
Just roll call vote?
BERT NETTLES:
On a rollcall vote.
JACK BASS:
What's required to have a roll call vote in the house?
WALTER DE VRIES:
Is it a discharge?
BERT NETTLES:
Have 10%.
JACK BASS:
10% of the members present?
BERT NETTLES:
10% of the members present or voting can force a roll call vote. Its not really that much of a problem. Just a matter of the speaker recognizing that 10% call for ayes and noes. Then the speaker says, calls for ayes and noes that support it.
WALTER DE VRIES:
Yeah, but a discharge motion requiresmembers elected.
BERT NETTLES:
Discharge motion . . . it requires a majority, a simple majority. And this is in effect what that was.I forgot. But it was a discharge motion and it was filed on the last day it could be filed and still in proper sequence to have it voted on. And the newspapers picked it up and it became a real big thing. On the next succeeding day, legislative day, he did go to the mike and speak, force the discharge motion and forced it to a vote. And it passed by a good margin. And from then on it was downhill all the way. The newspapers had picked it up and once you were able to force a vote, a recorded vote, then it was all over. The house passed it. What they did . . . and one of the things that is hurting the bill so much now . . . a lot of the opponents of the bill loaded it up with some very ill advised amendments, trying to make it so severe in some ways that . . . . If fact newspaper, all news media people were brought under the bill. That was later knocked out by the federal court. But several such amendments were offerred to make it unpalatable. Yet it passed.
JACK BASS:
Is Common Cause a strong organization in Alabama?
BERT NETTLES:
No, very weak. But it does have some good ideas. Many of us in the legislature have tried to pick up the good ideas that are offerred, such as the ethics legislation, and try to push that. What I'm saying is, this was a man who said "I've got nothing to lose. I'm not bucking for a committee chairmanship. I'm not bucking for promotion. I'm not concerned about patronage from the governor." So he went andso to speak when the house leadership, legislative leadership said "We don't want anybody touching that discharge petition." He went to the mike and made the motion.