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Star Chamber Bill Seeing Light

By Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—Today, HB 257 is scheduled on the House Special Order Calendar. If passed, this bill would give a select few members of the House and Senate almost complete control over all agencies and departments throughout the government, even causing the Governor to beg for approval.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. John Knight (R-Montgomery), co-sponsored by Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) and Mack McCutcheon (R-Huntsville), would create the Joint Legislative Committee on Government Oversight and Accountability, “to provide continuous legislative oversight of all state government operations.”

This committee would be tasked with authorizing “the Department of Finance to modify the planned expenditure of funds by State agencies and other entities” and also “direct the Chief Examiner of Public Accounts to conduct an audit, review, or examination of any State agency or other entity” 

Also included are departments, bureaus, boards, commissions, authorities, and other[s].

This bill would give central control of all funding and investigation of a large part of Alabama’s government.

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Anywhere there is an interagency agreement transferring employees, programs, professional contracts, personal property, or equipment, the Governor must give notice to the committee. Also, included are any policy changes or creation of new programs. 

It passed out of House Internal Affairs Committee in April with only one amendment changing “after 30 days” to “upon” relating to the time required for the Governor to give advance notice to the Joint Legislative Committee of proposed actions of an agency or department.

This would put the Governor in the position of advocate/mediator between State entities and the legislature, as he would be the intermediary.

Should the committee deem that an agency or department have “expenditures [that] are greater than necessary to execute the programs,” the committee “may approve, modify, or withhold planned expenditure of funds.”

This leaves complete control of all aspects of agencies and departments at the sole discretion of the committee. This committee would be comprised of members appointed by the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tem. Not only do they have power to appoint four members each, since they also appoint committee chairs, this gives them control over all agencies and departments in the State.

The committee would consist of: 

Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee 

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Chair of the House General Fund Ways and Means Committee

Chair of the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee

Chair of the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee 

Four members appointed by the President Pro Tem

Four members appointed by the Speaker of the House

The bill states that the committee would “provide continuous legislative oversight of all State government operations.” In other words, this is pretty much a full-time operation, where the members would receive additional compensation to their extra-legislative work.

The State’s 1901 Constitution gives the legislative body control over the State, this bill would give them even more.

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Susan Britt
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