By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
House Bill 257 sponsored by state Representative John Knight (D-Montgomery), which some have called the “Star Chamber bill,” is on the calendar to be considered on the floor of the full Alabama House of Representatives.
According to the synopsis, “This bill would create the Joint Legislative Committee on Government Oversight and Accountability to provide continuous legislative oversight of all state government operations. This bill would provide for the membership, compensation, powers, and duties of the committee. This bill would authorize the committee to review expenditures by state agencies and other entities and investigate, in detail, whether funds are expended for the programs or purposes for which they were appropriated by the Legislature. This bill would authorize the committee to offer formal suggestions to state agencies and other entities to correct operational deficiencies identified by the committee and would allow the committee to direct the Chief Examiner of Public Accounts to conduct an audit, review, or examination of any state agency or other entity under certain conditions. This bill would also authorize the Department of Finance to modify the planned expenditure of funds by state agencies and other entities upon advice and consent of the Joint Legislative Committee on Government Oversight and Accountability and would prohibit certain interagency agreements unless notice is provided by the Governor to the committee.”
Legislators serving on the “Star Chamber” council would get additional compensation above and beyond what legislators now are paid.
The committee would be comprised of the Chair of the House Education Ways and Means Committee, the Chair of the House General Fund Ways and Means Committee, the Chair of the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee and the Chair of the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee. Additionally, four members of the Senate appointed by the Senate President Pro Tem and four House members appointed by the Speaker.
Supporter claim that the bill gives the people’s representatives more oversight over State agencies. Critics says that the bill gives a committee too much authority over State affairs and could be corrupting.