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MONDAY, APRIL 9, 2007
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EDITORIAL

Legislature must act on ethics bill

Corruption trials continue; the latest convictions came last week. Newspapers write about double- and triple-dipping public officials who have obvious conflicts of interest. Scandals keep coming out of the state’s two-year college system while its interim chancellor warns employees to quit spilling the beans.

Alabama’s suddenly well-paid House Judiciary Committee has work to do.

Rep. Mac Gipson, R-Prattville, has introduced HB 32, a bill that would make it easier for the state Ethics Commission to do its job of catching and stopping officials who are serving themselves at the expense of the public.

Among other things, Mr. Gipson’s bill would:

  • Delete a requirement that anyone filing a complaint with the commission must “have actual knowledge of the allegations.” A citizen who learned about suspicious conduct from a newspaper or by word of mouth could raise a question. The commission could determine whether it was valid. The problem now is that people with “actual knowledge” are more likely to be the perpetrators or be subject to reprisal from the perpetrators.

  • Cut the $250 daily limit on what a lobbyist can spend on an official without reporting it by 90 percent, to a much more reasonable $25.

  • Make public officials’ and employees’ annual statements of income and debt much more specific, with actual dollar figures rather than vague brackets.

  • Give the commission subpoena power.

    Legislators won’t like these reforms because they empower and protect the people, not the politicians. But we pay legislators to represent the public, and we’re paying them 62 percent more now than just a few weeks ago.

    Mr. Gipson’s bill sits in the House Judiciary Committee, whose members ought to get it rolling through the legislative process now. What are they waiting on? What are they hiding?

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