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TUESDAY, MAY 8, 2007
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Bill seeks requisites for sheriff candidates

By M.J. Ellington
mjellington@decaturdaily.com (334) 262-1104

MONTGOMERY — Last year when Stacy George qualified to run against Morgan County Sheriff Greg Bartlett in the Republican primary, he had no law enforcement experience. Under Alabama law, he needed none.

A proposed state law could change that.

George, a Morgan County commissioner, lost his bid to oust Bartlett, but the race is just one example of how easily anyone in Alabama could qualify to run for or be elected sheriff in counties across the state.

"In Alabama, you can drive a beer truck or be the CEO of Blue Cross for a living and become a county sheriff the next," said Bobby Timmons of the Alabama Sheriff's Association. "It is a very responsible position. If a person has the power for life-or-death decisions, he should have to have some minimum qualifications."

Timmons wants Alabama to follow qualification guidelines similar to those in every other state, including prior experience in law enforcement. Current qualifications require only that a person be a qualified voter, live in Alabama, serve full time in the office and hold no other public office for profit.

House Bill 593, up for consideration in the House Constitutions and Elections Committee on Wednesday, would set additional minimum qualifications for a person elected or appointed sheriff. Among the qualifications is one requiring that a sheriff have three or more years of law enforcement experience in a job having the power to arrest someone.

The committee also will hold a public hearing on a bill that would put new public disclosure requirements on political action committees.

The sheriff's bill by Rep. Betty Carol Graham, D-Alexander City, would set additional minimum qualifications for a sheriff. Requirements include: be a U.S. citizen, live in the county for at least one year prior to election or appointment, be a high school graduate or equivalent, and be at least 25 years old.

Timmons said he wants continuing education for sheriffs and he wants orientation similar to training that police chiefs and other law enforcement officers go through. He said that under current state law, sheriffs and constables are exempt from the continuing education requirement.

The committee will hold a public hearing on another measure, House Bill 828.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jeff McLaughlin, D-Guntersville, would require that political action committees file an annual organization statement, pay a fee and file weekly electronic contribution and expenditure reports with the secretary of state.

The bill would also require that the name of the PAC contain a relevant description of the PAC's purpose and the name of the individual who formed the PAC.

The House committee will not vote on the PAC bill on the day of the public hearing.

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