Senate cuts key parts of Riley ethics overhaul
The sponsor of the original bill, Sen. Bryan Taylor of Prattville, expressed his concerns that the bill was opening a “huge loophole.” He said it will not stop the wining and dining of public officials, only changing who pays for it.
"Fundamentally, this doesn't change anything about the system in Montgomery or back home," Taylor said. " ... I'm afraid that it will end up being window dressing."
Taylor's proposal capped, with some exceptions, the spending of lobbyists and others with interests before public officials at $25 a day and $100 a year. Also, his proposal would have stopped universities from giving lawmakers football tickets, but that would be allowed under the Beason version.
Riley called legislators into a special session to overhaul ethics laws in the state. They could pass a variety of bills by Tuesday.
Taylor said he knows that some of his colleagues were concerned because they were confused by some portions of his bill.
Beason, R-Gardendale, said his version was simpler, avoids unintended consequences, and addresses the sometimes corrupting cozy relationship between legislators and lobbyists. If the changes are passed, a lobbyist could not buy an official a cup of coffee, he said.
Beason does not believe the changes weaken the bill. If other problems arise, he said the Legislature will address those at that time.
"The problem was all of the questions weren’t answered," he said of the comprehensive Taylor proposal.
Taylor said the lobbyists and special interests are working very hard "to get us all addicted to the good ol' boy system that has been in place for too long."
Nothing in the altered bill would stop legislators from being taken on a purely social trip, from going on other travel, or being taken golfing, Taylor said.
Taylor's bill would have required online reporting of all lobbyist spending on public officials and public employees, but since all lobbyist spending would be prohibited that is not in the Beason version.
Beason's version also asked the Alabama Ethics Commission to, by the fifth day of the legislative session that begins in March, submit a report on what other states have successfully enacted to improve ethics there.
-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen