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House votes to ban 'pass through pork'

By Bob Johnson
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House passed a bill Tuesday that would prevent legislators from hiding money for special projects in state agencies — a process known as "pass through pork."

The House voted 103-0 to approve the bill that would also create a legislative commission to review spending by the governor. The bill, which now goes to the Senate, would require the governor to give the commission five days notice before transferring funds appropriated for one program to another.

It was the fourth year in a row the House has voted to make it illegal for lawmakers to hide appropriations for special projects in state agencies. The bill has previously died in the Senate.

"All this does is creates transparency in government. That's what this is all about," said the sponsor, Rep. Oliver Robinson, D-Birmingham.

Several lawmakers questioned whether creating the commission to monitor gubernatorial spending would create an obstacle for the governor, particularly in an emergency.

"This could hamper the governor's ability to shift money around in state government," said Rep. Jay Love, R-Montgomery.

Robinson said the intention of the bill is not to stop the governor from transferring money.

"The language of the bill does nothing to tie the hands of the governor. All we are asking is that the Legislature be informed of what occurs," Robinson said.

While the bill would stop legislators from hiding money in state agencies, Robinson said it does not stop legislators from asking agencies to support certain projects.

"It does not stop legislators from lobbying for a program," Robinson said.

Some Republican legislators complained that adding the spending commission removed the bill from the original intent to stop "pass through pork."

But House Minority Leader Rep. Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, agreed that it was important to make it easy to tell where state money is being spent.

"I understand trying to stop people from hiding where money is going. That's not right," Hubbard said.

"It ought to be where we can look at the budget and say this amount of money appropriated to wherever and know full well that money was spent there."

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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