By Lee Hedgepeth
Alabama Political Reporter
Chaos in the Upper Chamber: Revolving Door Round One
Earlier this month, the Senate passed an amended version of Senator Del Marsh’s so-called “revolving door bill,” which is aimed at furthering restrictions on lobbying by former members of the legislature. Previous ethics reforms had prevented lawmakers from lobbying the body from which they departed, but a loophole — effectively pointed out by the Alabama Supreme Court — provided that retired or replaced legislators can legally lobby the other legislative body: the House, if a Senator, or the Senate, if a Representative.
Marsh’s bill, though, according to some, did not adequately address ethical concerns surrounding lobbying, and Democrats, led by veteran legislator Hank Sanders, proposed an amendment with numerous substantive changes that purported to give the bill some actual teeth.
After much clamor, which can be read about and seen here, and GOP leadership objecting fiercely that the amendment was not relevant to the bill, the Sanders amendment passed the Senate unanimously, as did the entire piece of legislation.
Marsh: “He ruined my bill.”
After final passage of the amendment and the bill, SB36, were completed, Senator Del Marsh took to the lectern, and in a somewhat snide manner informed the body that the new amendment was unacceptable as an add-on to his legislation, although, he said, Sanders was welcome to introduce his proposals as their own pieces of legislation.
Last week, Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh, who has drawn primary opposition this June, told reporters, “He ruined my bill. He really did.”
Some have come to wonder whether his opinion of the Sanders Amendment comes not from whether it is germane to the legislation, but from somewhere more personal.
Senator Marsh’s daughter, Christine Marsh, is currently an active lobbyist for Sarrell Regional Dental Center for Public Health, who has long fought hard for state medicaid contracts. Under the Sanders Amendment, Marsh would not be allowed to lobby for any agency:
“(b) No public official shall serve for a fee as a lobbyist or otherwise represent clients, including his or her employer before any board, agency, commission, or department, of which he or she is a former member or the Legislature, for a period of two years after he or she leaves such membership. This prohibition shall extend to the family members of the public official as that term is defined in Section 36-25-1(15). For the purposes of this subsection, such prohibition shall not include a former member of the Alabama judiciary who as an attorney represents a client in a legal, non-lobbying capacity.
Or any family member of such official as defined by Section 36-25-1(15).’ is included in part (d)”
(Underlined portion is Sanders Amendment)
Revolving Door Round Two
Last week, Senator Marsh expressed to the Capitol press corps that if the House fails to act on the amended bill because of concerns over the changes, he will introduce a clean bill without Sen. Sanders’ amendment this coming week. Democrats had been worried the passed Marsh/Sanders bill would be gutted in the House of Representatives, but their fears might come to pass in the upper chamber, with revolving door round two.