Montgomery lawyer and often-controversial radio personality Mark Montiel has filed a lawsuit against Governor Robert Bentley, State Comptroller Thomas White, Jr and State Finance Director Marquita Davis claiming that the budgets passed this past session are unconstitutional. [Clarification: Montiel filed the lawsuit on behalf of former state senator John Rice.] States are constitutionally mandated to pass a balanced budget each year. In layman’s terms, the lawsuit, which was filed in Montgomery County Circuit Court and assigned to Judge Truman M. Hobbs, Jr., essentially claims the budgets are unconstitutional on two grounds: 1. the budgets were balanced contingent on passage of the Sept. 18 constitutional amendment, and 2. the budgets were not balanced based on “reasonable anticipated revenues.”
In the lawsuit, Montiel asks for the taxpayers to cover his legal fees.
Keep Alabama Working Spokesman Rick Journey released the following statement in response to the suit:
“The campaign does not speak for any of the defendants of this action. Our opinion on this matter is simple: This is a publicity stunt by a radio show host in Montgomery who also happens to have a law license. This frivolous lawsuit is an attempt by the radio show host to line his own pockets with taxpayer money and waste state resources. This 11th hour campaign stunt will have no bearing on the Sept. 18 referendum and we urge voters to vote “YES” and Keep Alabama Working.”
I called around and spoke with several Montgomery insiders and attorneys and the general consensus is that the lawsuit is on pretty shaky ground. “The actual lawsuit won’t go anywhere,” said one attorney familiar with the case. “I believe the primary goal was just to create a stir ahead of the Sept. 18 vote.”
I’ve reached out to Mark Montiel for a statement. I’ll update this story as soon as we get more info. Stay turned.
UPDATE: Mark Montiel called and gave me the following statement:
“Apparently those who passed this law and those involved in this constitutional amendment campaign don’t bother to read the constitution. Alabama is one of 26 states with a balanced budget requirement. I’ve talked to several legislators and they all admit the budget they passed unconstitutional. The legislative and executive branches failed to do their duty, so we have to go to the judicial branch to enforce the constitution that all the public officials are sworn to uphold.”