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State ranks in top 13 for financial disclosure policies

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — A new nationwide study ranks Alabama’s financial disclosure requirements for the governor as the 13th best in the nation, partly because it requires its top executive to report far more economic information than most states.

The study by the Center for Public Integrity in Washington put Alabama ahead of all Southeastern states except Louisiana, which finished third, and Georgia, which was seventh.

The study being released Thursday gave Alabama generally high marks for the requirements that the state ethics law puts on governors to report their and their spouse’s sources of income and debts each year. Leah Rush, director of the study, said Alabama is one of 12 states that require the governor to report the general range of income from various sources. Most governors don’t have to reveal nearly that much information.

“That’s why Alabama is among the top,” Rush said Wednesday.

Alabama’s governor has to file a financial disclosure report with the State Ethics Commission by April 30 of each year. The report covers the previous calendar year.

Jim Sumner, the commission’s executive director, said he wishes Alabama law required clearer financial information than the broad income categories provided for in the law, but the study shows “we are still leagues ahead of where most of the other states are.”

Traditionally done well

Sumner said he was pleased with the ranking. He said Alabama has traditionally performed well in the center’s periodic studies involving ethics and disclosure laws, including ranking second in a 1999 study about disclosure laws for legislators.

Alabama fell short in the new study by still having the financial reports filed on paper rather than electronically and by not making the reports available online.

People wishing to see a report must either drive to the Ethics Commission’s office in Montgomery to view it in person or pay for a copy by mail.

Rush said the 1999 legislative study, where Alabama ranked second, did not consider electronic filing and electronic access.

Sumner said the commission has been wanting to start electronic filing and online access for several years, but plans were pushed back by state budget cuts in 2003.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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