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Riley halts ethics bill that passed with bipartisan support

MONTGOMERY (AP) — The state Senate's Democratic majority leader said Republican Gov. Bob Riley was trying to shield his own children when he killed government ethics legislation that passed the Legislature with unanimous bipartisan support.

A spokesman for the governor said the legislation was redundant.

"The only reason this bill exists is to give these senators the appearance of being in favor of some type of reform, when the truth is they killed every single one of Governor Riley's ethics reform bills," communications director Jeff Emerson said Tuesday.

In the legislative session that ended June 7, Rep. Marcel Black, D-Muscle Shoals, sponsored a bill that would have expanded the definition of lobbyists who must register with the State Ethics Commission and file quarterly reports with the commission about their activities.

For years, the law has only covered people who regularly try to influence the Legislature. Black's bill would have expanded it to include people who attempt to influence the awarding of state contracts that are not competitively bid.

Jim Sumner, executive director of the State Ethics Commission, said Tuesday legislators developed the bill without consulting the commission. If they had, he said, he would have explained that it was "far broader than they realized" and could have affected thousands of people doing business with the state.

The House passed the bill 101-0 and the Senate approved it 30-0. Riley had until Sunday night to sign it into law, but he killed it by not signing it.

"It is widely held in Montgomery that Governor Riley's children lobby their father on behalf of entities desiring no-bid state contracts," Senate Majority Leader Zeb Little, D-Cullman, said.

"This legislation would have further shined the light of day on the lobbying activities of the governor's family, but Governor Riley vetoed the bill," Little said in a statement Tuesday.

Senate budget committee Chairman Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, recalled that when Riley took office in 2003, he gave his department heads signs for their desks that said, "If you buy it, bid it."

"His veto shows Governor Riley is not serious about no-bid contracts involving his own administration. He ran on the issue and now he's running from it," Bedford said.

Riley's son, Rob Riley, and one of his daughters, Minda Riley Campbell, were singled out by Democrats in their statement. Rob Riley was out of his Birmingham law office Tuesday and did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment. Campbell, also of Birmingham, did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Emerson said the bill was redundant because the existing process for the Legislature's Contract Review Committee to review state contracts calls for the disclosure of anyone lobbying on behalf of the contracts.

Emerson said Riley had his own ethics bills in the just completed session — including one to require lobbyists to disclose all money they spend entertaining public officials — and they got killed by the Democrat-controlled Legislature.

"Now, in addition to killing his reforms, they attack his family with totally unfounded and totally untrue accusations," Emerson said.

Sumner said that if the bill had become law, doctors, lawyers, architects, engineers and many others getting routine state contracts would have had to register with the Ethics Commission. Sumner estimated the impact would have been in the thousands.

"It was extremely broad," he said.

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

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