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SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Legislature should pass new ethics bill

The time is right for the bill in the Legislature that would make lobbyists fully disclose what they spend on public officials.

With national Democrats coining the "Culture of Corruption" phrase in Washington, state Sen. Tommy Ed Roberts, D-Hartselle, should find plenty of support for the legislation he is sponsoring with Sen. "Hap" Myers, R-Mobile.

The last time the Legislature reformed the ethics of lobbying, they allowed a major loophole to remain. Under legislation that cleared the Senate Government Affairs Committee last week, lobbyists would have to report every penny they spend on legislators.

The current law allows them to exempt the first $250 per day.

Two years ago, Gov. Bob Riley decried such a gap, pointing out that during a year's time that could amount to $91,000. He called the current law an outrage that breeds mistrust.

The bill would also require people who lobby the executive branch to register with the Ethics Commission. This would close another big gap in the existing law.

Government does have a culture of corruption that was in place long before Tom DeLay and Jack Abramhoff cast new doubt on the people who serve in government.

Sen. Roberts says he believes the legislation will offer sunshine to help voters know who spends money and how much on elected state officials.

It's a good bill unless opponents are successful in inserting new loopholes. But with the present political climate, it's got a chance of passing.

The bill won't stop lobbyists from buying votes, but it will penalize those caught in illegal dealings. And that will be a deterrent.

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