Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ethics Legislation Passes Committee

Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee considered two separate ethics reform bills, HB 582 and HB 594.

During the meeting, Governor Riley’s Policy Director, Bryan Taylor, presented a Power Point presentation that gave an overview of what this legislation actually does since the bills themselves are lengthy.

HB 582 would:

- Reorganize the ethics code to be more user-friendly
- Set new limits for public officials on gifts and travel
- Require full disclosure for lobbyist spending
- Grant subpoena power to the Ethics Commission
- Require the Attorney General’s Office to report back to the Ethics Commission once a case has been turned over within 180 days

Mr. Jim Sumner, Executive Director of the Alabama Ethics Commission, stated during the meeting that this legislation is a tremendous step forward for the Ethics Commission. He also commended the Governor’s Office for their hard work in setting forth a bill that he referred to as “The Gold Standard” for ethics reform. According to Mr. Sumner, the subpoena power is “the most important tool you could give us.”

Representative Cam Ward ( R ) pointed out yesterday that we often use grand words saying we want to fight government corruption, but there are so many components to ethics reform and the issue is so complex that the process becomes more difficult.

After much discussion and several amendments being presented, Rep. Ward went on to say, and others on the committee agreed, that they did not want to vote for a patch-worked bill just to get it out of the committee so that they could go back home to their districts and say they voted for ethics in Montgomery.

Because of the lengthy discussion yesterday and in an effort to give committee members additional time to consider amendments to the bill, the committee recessed until this morning where they passed both bills.

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