Albritton: Comprehensive ethics bill ‘absolutely not’ dead
Appearing on Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal” on Friday, State Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Range) advised that he has not given up on passing his comprehensive ethics clarification and reform bill this session.
The bill, SB 230, was before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday but carried over by the chair, State Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster). After the meeting, Ward told Yellowhammer News that the bill would not leave his committee this session.
However, when asked by host Don Dailey if he was ready to pronounce SB 230 dead, Albritton unflinchingly responded, “Absolutely not.”
After flashing a smile, Albritton added, “I didn’t come here to watch things happen. If you listened or heard the statements I made while in committee, and if you listened to the pro tem’s interview on the radio, I think you could hear some of the frustrations that [are] out there.”
He then said, “There may be problems with the bill – no bill is perfect. But we have tried to bring together the experts in the field, including all interested parties, to come forward to assist and help develop a consensus. And we have not been able to reach a consensus.”
“But I will tell you this,” Albritton continued. “The prior bills that have come from the [Attorney General’s] Office and from the Ethics Commission have not reached consensus, either.”
The state senator then outlined that there is relative consensus on changes needing to be made to the current ethics law.
Albritton advised, “There’s a knowledge that the current [statute] needs to be restructured, redone, in several different aspects. It’s too broad in its effect, it’s too harsh in many of its effects. And we need to make sure that everything is clear as to who does what – we have agencies fighting among themselves as to what is official opinion and what isn’t.”
After mentioning a recent example between the Attorney General’s Office and the Ethics Commission, he added, “So, when we have those disagreements about what the same law says, the legislature has to step in and give some clarity as to what that is. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
Dailey then asked how Albritton would respond to critics who argue that SB 230 would “weaken” the current ethics law.
“Well, weaken is one of those inflammatory words that’s frankly just not true,” Albritton emphasized.
Instead, he explained that he believes SB 230 would “strengthen” the current ethics law.
“[B]ecause what we’re doing is laying out clear lines of whose responsibility lies where, instead of having the overlapping issue that we continue to have,”Albritton said. “We’re strengthening it because we’re [increasing] clarity.”
He then reminded the audience that approximately one million Alabamians are subject to the current ethics law. Albritton said that it should not be a Class B felony – which is punishable with two to 20 years in prison – for a state employee’s kid to accept a $27 gift from someone they did not know was a lobbyist or a principal.
Watch, starting at 36:40:
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn