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Ethics reform bill remains on the table in final days of legislative session

On Tuesday, the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee met to hold a public hearing on State Rep. Matt Simpson’s proposed overhaul of the Alabama ethics law. With only two days remaining in the 2024 state legislative session once Senators adjourn on Tuesday, Simpson (R-Daphne) addressed the committee and made a final push.

He told members he’s been working closely with State Sen. Sam Givhan (R-Huntsville) in recent weeks and Senators have improved the bill through a substitute version since it passed the House over one month ago.

“This bill will revamp the ethics laws as they are in Alabama. This is a bill that has come from from many years of, not just this bill, but many years of work in this building to try to address the ethics laws and make sure the ethics laws make sense,” Simpson said. “The goal behind it is clarity and to end the confusion.”

Givhan (R-Huntsville) also addressed the committee, detailing specific areas of focus for Senate changes, including clarifying definitions and refining the provisions concerning conflicts of interest and financial disclosures.

RELATED: Rep. Simpson makes case as Alabama House decides on ethics reform

“This substitute is a combination of suggestions made from different Senators of both parties. And some suggestions from the ethics director, some from the Attorney General’s Office,” Givhan said. “So it’s a mixture of suggestions that have come to form this where we kind of landed on.”

One major change concerns the classification of bribery offenses. The initial House bill classified all bribery as a Class B felony, regardless of the amount involved. Givhan described a tiered approach, in which bribery involving amounts up to $10,000 be considered a Class C felony, while higher amounts remain a Class B felony.

Givhan also mentioned the removal of a clause that would have allowed the Ethics Commission to refer cases with corrupt intent for prosecution, following concerns raised by the Attorney General’s Office.

RELATED: State Rep. Simpson says Ethics Commissioner’s offense should be a civil or administrative violation – not a felony

State Sen. Arthur Orr voiced his opposition to Simpson’s reform, citing his participation in a 2018-2019 group that reviewed the legislation, but refrained from introducing a bill after learning of another proposal.

“That committee did have some good recommendations, but this bill seems to go far beyond those recommendations. Thank you for your work. And you certainly your interest in this,” Orr (R-Decatur) said.

The bill was carried over and is scheduled for a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday morning at 8:00 a.m. on Day 29 of the 2024 state legislative session.

Grayson Everett is the state and political editor for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @Grayson270

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