By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Senate Bill 279, sponsored by Sen. Gerald Dial (R-Lineville), would make significant changes to the existing State ethics laws. The Senator says, after fully considering the bill’s scope, he feels a series of public hearings are needed to a enact a bill that protects public interest, and the integrity of the ethics laws he has personally championed in his long and storied career. Dial, an Adjunct General, believes that honesty, integrity and honor should be the bedrock of a legislators commitment of service.
Dial, and the late Sen. Michael Figures, penned the first ethics laws on legislative lobbying. He has recently expressed disappointment with how the commission has handled it duties. Dial says he sees a need for some changes because of “abuse of the current language.” He feels that “updating and clarification” is needed, but wants to exercise caution in the process.
Last session, legislators in the House, loyal to indicted Speaker Mike Hubbard, sought to change current ethics laws to give Hubbard reasonable doubt at his criminal trial. In a phone conversation with Sen. Dial, he was adamant that SB279 had nothing to do with Hubbard, but was an effort to cement the ethics laws he helped pass years ago. “That was the intent made by SB287. With the numerous calls and comments on this proposed legislation, I feel that it deserves a well-vetted, open discussion about any possible modification and the effects of said changes.”
Dial said he wanted public hearings, so that every stakeholder would have input into this important legislation.
“Anyone who knows me, knows that I respect the legislative process of public hearings and the input from my constituents. It is obvious that we need to hear from teachers, state employees and the taxpayers who elect us to ensure that the revised law will continue to safeguard against.”
The Senator will hold a series of public hearings over the Summer and reconsider the bill next session.
The last effort to weaken ethics in the House was an effort to help Hubbard avoid justice. Many feared that Hubbard’s new attorney, Bill Baxley, would try to exploit Dial’s good intentions to help his client to avoid justice.