Contributed by Beth Marietta Lyons
Lyons Law Firm
The Legislature completed its 2017 Regular Session on Friday evening May 19, 2017. Unless the Governor calls a Special Session, the Legislature will next convene on Tuesday January 9, 2018 for the 2018 Regular Session.
There were 1030 bills introduced during the Regular Session. 136 (13 percent) bills, including local bills, have been enacted and 164 are awaiting action by the Governor.
Bills passed in the last 5 days of the Session have 10 days from the date of adjournment to be signed by the Governor or they are “Pocket” Vetoed.
The bills below received final passage of the Legislature. Many of them await the Governor’s signature. If already enacted, the Act Number is included:
SIGNIFICANT LEGISLATION PASSED BY THE LEGISLATURE
HISTORIC TAX CREDIT: To reestablish the income tax credit, which expired in 2016, for the rehabilitation, preservation or development of certified historic structures 60 years or older [HB345 by Representative Victor Gaston].
SENATE REDISTRICTING: To provide for the reapportionment and redistricting of the state Senate districts for elections in 2018 [SB403 by Senator Gerald Dial].
HOUSE REDISTRICTING: To provide for the reapportionment and redistricting of the state House districts for elections in 2018 [HB571 by Representative Randy Davis].
JUDICIAL OVERRIDE: To prohibit a judge from overriding a jury’s sentencing verdict in capital cases [SB16 by Senator Dick Brewbaker]. ENACTED: 2017-131
RIGHT TO LIFE: Constitutional Amendment to support the rights of unborn children, namely the right to life, and would specify that the Constitution does not protect the right to abortion or require the funding of abortion [HB98 by Representative Matt Fridy]. ENACTED: 2017-188
AUTISM: To require health benefit plans to offer coverage for the treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder for a child age eighteen or under for certain group insurance plans and contracts [HB284 by Representative Jim Patterson]. ENACTED: 2017-337
MONUMENTS: The “Alabama Memorial Preservation Act of 2017” that affirmatively prohibits the removal, renovation or improvement of statues, monuments, buildings (excepting K-12 school buildings), streets and bridges if in place more than 40 years or, if in place less than 40 years but more than 20, requires a multi-stage process and approval from a state committee [SB60 by Senator Gerald Allen].
MIDWIFERY: To allow a midwife who holds current midwifery certification from an organization accredited by the Institute for Credentialing Excellence to practice midwifery in the State of Alabama [HB315 by Representative Ken Johnson].
IRRIGATION TAX CREDIT: To increase the maximum income tax credit for the purchase and installation of irrigation equipment and the conversion of irrigation equipment from fuel to electricity [SB257 by Senator Arthur Orr].
EDUCATION TRUST FUND BUDGET: The $6.4 billion Senate Education Budget bill that would give a $12 million increase to K-12, a $13.5 million increase to Pre-K, an additional $7.4 million for retirement funding, provide funds for an additional 152 teachers for grades 4 through 6, and level fund 4 year colleges and universities and the teacher’s health insurance (PEEHIP) [SB129 by Senator Arthur Orr]. ENACTED: ENACTED: 2017-335
GENERAL FUND BUDGET: The $1.846 billion General Fund Budget bill for fiscal year 2018 that includes approximately $100 million from the BP settlement, would level fund most state agencies, allocate $701 million to the Medicaid Agency, and reduce funding for the Governor’s office [HB155 by Representative Steve Clouse]. ENACTED: 2017-338
BRUNCH: To authorize a local governing body of a county or municipality, where the Sunday sale of alcoholic beverages is allowed and when the referendum did not set the time, to extend the time to 10:00 a.m. on Sunday for on-premises consumption under limited circumstances [HB353 by Representative Juandalynn Givan].
ADOPTION RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: The “Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act,” that prohibits the state from taking adverse action against an adoption agency that declines to place a child in a situation that conflicts with its religious beliefs [HB24 by Representative Rich Wingo]. ENACTED: 2017-213
RIGHT OF CONSCIENCE ACT: To authorize health care providers to decline to perform services that violate their consciences [HB95 by Representative Arnold Mooney]. ENACTED: 2017-189
DEATH PENALTY APPEALS: To shorten the time for an appellant to file petitions for post-conviction remedies in death penalty cases [SB187 by Senator Cam Ward].
CROSSOVER VOTING: To prohibit a voter from voting in a primary runoff election unless the voter voted in the primary election of the party for which the runoff election is being held [SB108 by Senator Tom Whatley]. ENACTED: 2017-340
ABANDONED BUILDINGS: To grant to any Class 2 municipality (Mobile) the authority to enact by ordinance provisions for enforcement of local and state building regulations for the maintenance of structures; provide for a judicial in rem foreclosure of non-owner occupied properties; and provide for recovery of taxpayer costs and transfer of title to property under certain circumstances [HB430 by Representative Barbara Drummond]. ENACTED: 2017-304
CRAWFISH: To establish the regulatory authority for the Mobile County Health Department to regulate intermittent food service establishments that prepare food in association with a temporary exempt event that is a regional celebration, tradition, or cultural event that is designated as such by the City of Mobile [HB528 by Representative Margie Wilcox].
DELIVERY LICENSES: To provide an exemption from municipal delivery business license fees of businesses if deliveries do not exceed $10,000 per year and the business has no physical presence in the municipality or its police jurisdiction [SB316 by Senator Paul Sanford].
BALDWIN COUNTY GAS TAX: Relating to Baldwin County; to authorize the county commission to levy an excise tax not to exceed three cents per gallon on the business of selling, distributing, storing, or withdrawing from storage gasoline or motor fuel and substitutes in the county [SB79 by Senator Trip Pittman]. ENACTED: 2017-67
ENTERTAINMENT DISTRICTS: Relating to entertainment districts in Class 2 municipalities (Mobile); to explicitly authorize sidewalk sales by defining the licensed premises of a holder of a retail liquor license [HB185 by Representative James Buskey]. ENACTED: 2017-87
ANNUAL SALES TAX HOLIDAY: To change the annual sales tax holiday from the first Friday in August to the third Friday in July [SB136 by Senator Tim Melson]. ENACTED: 2017-120
EXCESS FUNDS: To clarify the process for calculation, distribution, and retention of excess funds held by a county following the sale of real estate for taxes [SB95 by Senator Trip Pittman]. ENACTED: 2017-130
LOW-SPEED VEHICLES: To empower any Class 2 municipality (Mobile) in the State of Alabama to authorize, by municipal ordinance, the operation of low-speed vehicles upon certain city streets of the municipality under limited circumstances and conditions [HB230 by Representative Chris Pringle]. ENACTED: 2017-150
CIVICS TEST: To require students to pass a 100 question civics test, with certain exemptions, before graduating from high school or obtaining a high school equivalency diploma [SB32 by Senator Arthur Orr]. ENACTED: 2017-173
DA BILL: To repeal Act No. 82-675, 1982 1st Special Session, and Act No. 88-423, 1988 Regular Session, which provided supplemental funding for certain salaries and expenses for the office of the District Attorney of the 13th Judicial Circuit in Mobile County [SB289 by Senator Rusty Glover]. ENACTED: 2017-211
LEGISLATIVE SERVICES AGENCY: To create a Legislative Services Agency which would consolidate Legislative Fiscal Office, Legislative Reference Service and the Alabama Law Institute under the new Agency [SB4 by Senator Gerald Dial]. ENACTED: 2017-214
ASSISTED SUICIDE BAN ACT: The “Assisted Suicide Ban Act,” that would prohibit a person or health care provider from providing aid in dying to another person [HB96 by Representative Mack Butler]. ENACTED: 2017-231
COUNTY AGRICULTURE AUTHORITY: To authorize counties to establish an agriculture authority to promote agricultural businesses, operations, commodities, workforce development and economic development within the county [SB345 by Senator Tim Melson]. ENACTED: 2017-246
BIRMINGHAM CITY COUNCIL SALARY: To provide that the annual salary of the city council of a Class 1 municipality (Birmingham) would be set at the beginning of each term by the State Personnel Board based on the median household income of the city [SB247 by Senator Jabo Waggoner]. ENACTED: 2017-275
SUNSCREEN: To allow students to possess and use sunscreen at school and school-based events [SB63 by Senator Jim McClendon]. ENACTED: 2017-278
PAROLEE ID CARDS: To give the Department of Corrections the authority to establish a program to issue a nondriver identification card to a resident parolee upon his or her release from prison [SB102 by Senator Quinton Ross]. ENACTED 2017-281
COUNTY IMATE MEDICAID: To suspend, but not terminate, eligibility for Medicaid for county inmates and juveniles under the jurisdiction of a juvenile court [HB211 by Representative Chris England]. ENACTED: 2017-298
MOBILE COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD PROPERTY SALES: To delete the requirement that certain sales of property and leases by the Mobile County School Board be approved by the Judge of Probate [HB389 by Representative Chris Pringle]. ENACTED: 2017-303
ALABAMA JOBS ACT: To extend eligibility for incentives under the Alabama Jobs Act to December 31, 2023 and exempt megaprojects from the $850 million aggregate cap on incentives if they create at least 500 jobs or make a capital investment of $100 million or greater [HB574 by Representative Alan Baker]. ENACTED: 2017-314
FAITH-BASED BOARDING SCHOOLS: To require religious or faith-based boarding schools or facilities that house children to be registered and inspected by the Department of Human Resources and to perform criminal background checks on employees and potential employees [HB440 by Representative Steve McMillan].
REHIRE OF RETIRED PUBLIC SAFETY: To authorize a municipality to rehire a retired law enforcement officer or firefighter at any time if authorized by local law and upon notice to the Director of the Ethics Commission [HB222 by Representative Allen Treadaway].
THERAPY DOGS: To permit registered therapy dogs to accompany witnesses in legal proceedings [SB273 by Senator Jimmy Holley].
SIGNIFICANT BILLS THAT FAILED
UBER/LYFT: To allow transportation network companies (Uber, Lyft) to be regulated by the Public Service Commission rather than local governments [HB283 by Representative David Faulkner].
GAS TAX: To establish the Alabama Road and Bridge Rehabilitation and Improvement Authority to be funded by additional gasoline and diesel fuel excise taxes [HB487 by Representative Bill Poole].
PRISONS: To authorize counties and municipalities to create an authority for the purpose of acquiring real and personal property for lease to the state as a prison facility, authorize the Department of Corrections to issue bonds up to $350 million for renovation of existing prison facilities, and pledge a portion of ad valorem and spirit taxes to secure the bonds [SB302 by Senator Cam Ward].
PRIVATE SCHOOL SCHOLARSHIPS: To amend the Alabama Accountability Act of 2013 to create a credit against utility gross receipts tax liability for donations to scholarship granting organizations [SB123 by Senator Del Marsh].
CHILD CARE LICENSING: To remove certain exemptions from licensure for child care facilities that are part of a church or nonprofit religious school, require confidential state inspections, criminal history records on employees and maintenance of the immunization records on all children, and licensure if state or federal funds are received for children in the facility [HB277 by Representative Pebblin Warren].
FANTASY SPORTS CONTESTS: To exempt fantasy sports contests from the prohibition against gambling and provide for regulation and registration of operators [HB354 by Representative Alan Boothe].
CHURCH POLICE: To allow the Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham to employ police officers under certain conditions [SB193 by Senator Jabo Waggoner].
PERMITLESS GUN CARY: To allow a person to carry a pistol without a pistol permit on property under his or her control, including vehicles and places of business [SB24 by Senator Gerald Allen].
TICKET SALES: To limit a ticket issuer’s use of a nontransferable ticketing system to allow for the ticket buyer to resell the ticket[HB265 by Representative Paul Lee].
PRESCRIPTION DRUGS: To exempt prescription drug sales from the computation of city business license taxes based on gross receipts [SB31 by Senator Billy Beasley].
HOME HEALTH CARE: To exempt certain home health care providers who do not maintain an office within a municipality or county from purchasing a municipal or county business license [HB441 by Representative Ron Johnson].
PRIVATE AUCTIONS: To require the Land Commissioner to contract with a qualified auction company to sell at public auction lands, except lands in jurisdictions that have adopted expedited quiet title laws, which were sold for taxes and have not been redeemed within five years from the date the land was sold [SB264 by Senator Trip Pittman].
LODGING TAX: To specifically provide that the rental of any portion of a hotel, motel, etc. which is not used as sleeping accommodations would not be subject to the lodging tax [SB395 by Senator Trip Pittman].
COST SHARING FOR JUVENILES: To provide that a municipality would be responsible for half of the housing, maintenance and medical care expenses of a child under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court if the child resides within a municipality with a specified population and to provide that the law enforcement agency in whose custody a child is initially held or detained is responsible for all transportation costs [SB324 by Senator Phil Williams].
PUBLIC FUNDS FOR SCHOOL REFERENDUMS: To prohibit colleges, universities, local boards of education and public schools from using public funds or public property to advocate for or against ballot measures [SB101 by Senator Arthur Orr].
RIGHT-OF-WAY FEES: To limit the amount that cities can negotiate with companies for right-of- way fees to undefined actual costs incurred by the city [HB62 by Representative Elaine Beech].
GOV AND LT. GOV ELECTED JOINTLY: To require the Governor and Lt. Governor to be elected jointly, remove the Lt. Governor as the president of the Senate, and provide that the sole duty of the Lt. Governor would be to succeed the Governor upon his removal from office [SB371 by Senator Gerald Dial].
TECHNOLOGOY EDUCATION: To make a supplemental appropriation fro the Education Trust Fund Advancement and Technology Fund to public education institutions of higher education ($15 million) and the Department of Education ($41 million) for technology upgrades and infrastructure [SB307 by Senator Arthur Orr].
DIESEL EXHAUST SYSTEM: To require municipal fire departments to install a diesel exhaust system in each fire station building within five years [HB1 by Representative Tommy Hanes].
COMMON CORE: To terminate the adoption and implementation of the standards commonly known as the Common Core Standards or Alabama College and Career Ready Standards and direct the State Board of Education to replace the courses of study in place immediately prior to the adoption of the Common Core Standards [SB415 by Senator Harri Anne Smith].
TEN COMMANDMENTS: Constitutional Amendment to allow the display of the Ten Commandments on property owned by the state [SB139 by Senator Gerald Dial].
- Bills Introduced: 1,030
- Bills Which Have Passed House of Origin: 472
- Bills Which Have Passed Both Houses: 300
- Bills Which Are Pending Governor’s Signature: 163
- Bills Which Have Been Vetoed: 0
- Constitutional Amendment Bills Pending Referendum: 7
- Bills Enacted: 130
House passes General Fund Budget
By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The Alabama House of Representatives passed the state General Fund Budget on Tuesday.
The General Fund Budget for the 2019 fiscal year is Senate Bill 178. It is sponsored by Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose. State Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, carried the budget on the House floor. Clouse chairs the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee.
Clouse said, “Last year we monetized the BP settlement money and held over $97 million to this year.”
Clouse said that the state is still trying to come up with a solution to the federal lawsuit over the state prisons. The Governor’s Office has made some progress after she took over from Gov. Robert Bentley. The supplemental we just passed added $30 million to prisons.
The budget adds $50 million to the Department of Corrections.
Clouse said that the budget increased the money for prisons by $55,680,000 and includes $4.8 million to buy the privately-owned prison facility in Perry County.
Clouse said that the budget raises funding for the judicial system and raises the appropriation for the Forensic Sciences to $11.7 million.
The House passed a committee substitute so the Senate is either going to have to concur with the changes made by the House or a conference committee will have to be appointed. Clouse told reporters that he hoped that it did not have to go to conference.
Clouse said that the budget had added $860,000 to hire more Juvenile Probation Officers. After talking to officials with the court system that was cut in half in the amendment. The amendment also includes some wording the arbiters in the court lawsuit think we need.
The state General Fund Budget, SB178, passed 98-1.
Both budgets have now passed the Alabama House of Representatives.
The 2019 fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, 2018.
In addition to the SGF, the House also passed a supplemental appropriation for the current 2018 budget year. SB175 is also sponsored by Pittman and was carried by Clouse on the floor of the House.
SB175 includes $30 million in additional 2018 money for the Department of Corrections. The Departmental Emergency Fund, the Examiners of Public Accounts, the Insurance Department and Forensic Sciences received additional money.
Clouse said, “We knew dealing with the federal lawsuit was going to be expensive. We are adding $80 million to the Department of Corrections.”
State Representative Johnny Mack Morrow, R-Red Bay, said that state Department of Forensics was cut from $14 million to $9 million. “Why are we adding money for DA and courts if we don’t have money for forensics to provide evidence? if there is any agency in law enforcement or the court system that should be funded it is Forensics.”
The supplemental 2018 appropriation passed 80 to 1.
The House also passed SB203. It was sponsored by Pittman and was carried in the House by State Rep. Ken Johnson, R-Moulton. It raises securities and registration fees for agents and investment advisors. It increases the filing fees for certain management investment companies. Johnson said that those fees had not been adjusted since 2009.
The House also passed SB176, which is an annual appropriation for the Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The bill requires that the agency have an operations plan, audited financial statement, and quarterly and end of year reports. SB176 is sponsored by Pittman and was carried on the House floor by State Rep. Elaine Beech, D-Chatham.
The House passed Senate Bill 185 which gives state employees a cost of living increase in the 2019 budget beginning on October 1. It was sponsored by Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville and was being carried on the House floor by state Rep. Dimitri Polizos, R-Montgomery.
Polizos said that this was the first raise for non-education state employees in nine years. It is a 3 percent raise.
SB185 passed 101-0.
Senate Bill 215 gives retired state employees a one time bonus check. SB215 is sponsored by Senator Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, and was carried on the House floor by state Rep. Kerry Rich, R-Guntersville.
Rich said that retired employees will get a bonus $1 for every month that they worked for the state. For employees who retired with 25 years of service that will be a $300 one time bonus. A 20-year retiree would get $240 and a 35-year employee would get $420.
SB215 passed the House 87-0.
The House passed Senate Bill 231, which is the appropriation bill increase amount to the Emergency Forest Fire and Insect and Disease Fund. SB231 is sponsored by Sen. Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro, and was carried on the House floor by state Rep. Kyle South, R-Fayette.
State Rep. Elaine Beech, D-Chathom, said, “Thank you for bringing this bill my district is full of trees and you never know when a forest fire will hit.
SB231 passed 87-2.
The state of Alabama is unique among the states in that most of the money is earmarked for specific purposes allowing the Legislature little year-to-year flexibility in moving funds around.
The SGF includes appropriations for the Alabama Medicaid Agency, the courts, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the Alabama Department of Corrections, mental health, and most state agencies that are no education related. The Alabama Department of Transportation gets their funding mostly from state fuel taxes.
The Legislature also gives ALEA a portion of the gas taxes. K-12 education, the two year college system, and all the universities get their state support from the education trust fund (ETF) budget. There are also billions of dollars in revenue that are earmarked for a variety of purposes that does not show up in the SGF or ETF budgets.
Examples of that include the Public Service Commission, which collects utility taxes from the industries that it regulates. The PSC is supported entirely by its own revenue streams and contributes $13 million to the SGF. The Secretary of State’s Office is entirely funded by its corporate filing and other fees and gets no SGF appropriation.
Clouse warned reporters that part of the reason this budget had so much money was due to the BP oil spill settlement that provided money for the 2018 budget and $97 million for the 2019 budget. Clouse said they elected to make a $13 million repayment to the Alabama Trust fund that was not due until 2020 but that is all that was held over for 2020.
Clouse predicted that the Legislature will have to make some hard decisions about revenue in next year’s session.
Day Care bill delayed for second time on Senate floor, may be back Thursday
By Samuel Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter
The day care bill, which would license certain day care centers in Alabama, was once again delayed on the state Senate floor after one lawmaker requested more information.
Its brief appearance Tuesday ended with state Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, saying a compromise had not yet been worked out with the bill’s detractors.
Alabama’s Senate has been hesitant to act on the legislation because of complaints of state Sen. Shay Shelnutt, R-Trussville, who has been an opponent of the bill since its introduction last year. The bill’s delay on Tuesday marks the second time its been taken off the Senate’s agenda.
The bill has had a rocky time in this year’s session, but the bill’s sponsor state Rep. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, said she is still confident about its passage out of the Legislature.
Warren, D-Tuskegee, filed the bill this session with the support of influential lawmakers including Gov. Kay Ivey, who told reporters last year that she though all day cares should be licensed.
Mainly sparked by the death of 5-year-old boy in the care of a unlicensed day care worker, the bill had great momentum coming into this year’ session.
Despite the growing support from lawmakers, Religious groups had concerns that the bill would increase state-sponsored reach into religious day cares in churches and non-profit groups.
Spearheading the dissenters was Alabama Citizens Action Program, a conservative religious-based PAC.
Warren, proponents, and ALCAP announced a compromise to the bill while it was still in the Alabama House.
Announced by ALCAP originally, the new bill was a weaker version in that it did not require that all day cares in the state be regulated. Instead, religious-based day cares would only need to be registered if they received federal funds. At a Senate committee meeting in February, Warren said a similar requirement was about to come from federal law in Congress.
The bill moved through the House in a overwhelming vote in favor of the proposal and passed unanimously out of a Senate committee a few weeks ago.
Warren, speaking to reporters after its passage from the House, said she was unsure if the bill would encounter resistance in the upper chamber.
It was the Senate that killed the daycare bill last year amid a cramped last day where senators took the bill off the floor. The bill may face similar complications this year, as lawmakers seem to be preparing to adjourn within a few weeks.
Fantasy sports bill fails on Senate floor
By Samuel Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter
Would-be Fantasy Sports players in Alabama will have to wait to legally play in the state following a Senate vote on Tuesday.
The Alabama Senate decisively killed a bill to exempt fantasy sports from the state’s prohibition on gambling.
Not even entertaining a debate on the Senate floor, the proposal was killed during a vote for the Budget Isolation Resolution, which is usually a formality vote preluding a debate.
Fantasy sports are contests where participants select players from real teams to compete on fantasy teams using the real-world players’ stats.
Since 2016, the practice has been illegal in Alabama following a legal decision by the Attorney General’s Office that categorized it as gambling.
The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Paul Sanford, R-Huntsville, predicted the bill’s failure during a committee meeting two weeks ago, where the bill passed unanimously.
- Sen. Paul Sanford speaks to reporters after a Senate Committee meeting on Feb. 28, 2018. (Samuel Mattison/APR)
Speaking to reporter’s after the committee meeting, Sanford said the decision to file the bill was mainly a philosophical belief that the practice shouldn’t be illegal.
Sanford, a fantasy sports player before its ban, said that fantasy sports are a way to bring people closer together and not a means to win money. The Huntsville senator is not seeking re-election.
The bill’s failure in the Senate follows its trajectory last year too. A similar version of the bill, also sponsored by Sanford, failed in the Senate during the final days of the 2017 Legislative Session.
Since Sanford is retiring, it is unclear if the bill will even come back next session, or if it will even have a Senate sponsor.
House OKs bill to clarify consulting contracts by state legislators
By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Tuesday, the Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill to try to clarify how legislators accept consulting contracts under Alabama’s 2010 ethics law. Some pundits have suggested that House Bill 387 is actually designed to weaken the existing ethics law.
Sponsor state Rep. Rich Wingo, R-Tuscaloosa, argues that the legislation is merely a clarification and is intended to prevent legislators from inadvertently crossing the line into illegality.
Wingo said that his bill would require legislators to notify the Alabama Ethics Commission that they have entered into a consulting agreement in an area outside of their normal scope of work.
State Rep. Paul Beckman, R-Prattville, said, “I have never understood why members of this body were allowed to take contracts as consultants or counselors.”
Wingo said, “Never do I use the word counselor in my bill; it is consulting.”
Beckman asked, “Are we going to be getting into an area where every time we turn around we create a bureaucratic nightmare where we have to go get an opinion. These opinions whether it is orally or written don’t hold up in a court of law.” Beckman said, “We are serving the people here but we get this admonition that we can still be a consultant if we get an opinion.”
Wingo said, “This does not apply to professions where a member is currently licensed.”
Beckman said, “I would like to see more opinions coming out of the Ethics Commission. Right now we have the Ethics Commission competing with the Attorney General’s office over who has more authority.”
State Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, said,”This happened to a friend of mine. He just got out of prison. He was a state senator and had a written letter from the Ethics Commission which his lawyer read at trial and the jury convicted him anyway.”
Rogers never named his friend, but reporters think he was talking about former state Sen. Edward Browning ‘E. B.’ McClain who spent over 22 years in the legislature until he was convicted on 47 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, bribery, and money laundry in 2009.
A federal jury found that McClain and the Rev. Samuel Pettagrue were guilty in a scheme where McClain would secure public funds for Pettagrue’s community programs and then receive a kickback once the funds were in hand. McClain was sentenced to five years and ten months in prison. McClain was not prosecuted under the Alabama ethics law as the state has a much weaker ethics statute then. The current ethics law was passed in 2010.
Rogers said, “If they offer me a consulting contract for a field like aerospace engineering that I know nothing about they are trying to pay me off. If you can already be a consultant for something you know about why would you seek a consulting contract for something you don’t know about.
Rogers this is how they can pay you off for your vote.”
State Rep. Artis “A.J.” McCampbell said, “I don’t like making changes to things like this because we get into things called unintended consequences.”
McCampbell was reading from the bill and Wingo said, “You are reading from the original version it has completely changed.” “We worked tirelessly on this bill with the Ethics Commission this is not a fly by night bill.”
“If a member of the legislature enters into a contract to do a consulting contract outside of their normal field of work this bill requires that they consult with the Ethics Commission first,” Wingo said. “It is up to the member to notify the Ethics Commission not to the company or person offering them the money.”
State Representative Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, said, “Everybody but legislators are allowed to do contract work up to $30,000.”
Rep. Wingo said, “This is not intended to be a roadblock.”
State Representative Arnold Mooney, R-Indian Springs, said, “The whole purpose of this is not to prevent members from doing work in your field.” “What you are doing is offering to protect me.”
State Representative John Knight, D-Montgomery, asked Wingo what the Alabama Attorney General said about this legislation.
Wingo replied, “I have not contacted the Attorney General.”
Knight responded, “Something from the Ethics Commission does not carry a lot of protection from the Attorney General. We have seen that in the past. I think the Attorney General and the Ethics Commission should be in agreement in the working on this.”
Wingo answered, “Maybe this is a first step.”
Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, asked, “Do we have anybody doing work outside of their regular scope of work?”
Wingo answered, “Yes I think so.”
Wingo said, “If we had had this bill four or five years ago maybe we could have been spared the embarrassment that this body experienced with the former Speaker.”
Wingo was referring to former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard who was convicted of 12 counts of felony ethics violations in June 2016. Ironically, Hubbard is largely responsible for creating the ethics law that he was found guilty of violating 11 times in his relentless pursuit of outside contracts and personal wealth.
Unlike McClain, however, Hubbard has not yet served any of this sentence.
House Bill 387 passed 67-0 with 26 legislators abstaining.
The bill now moves to the Senate for its consideration.
(Original reporting by the Alabama Media Group’s Lisa Osborn in 2009 was consulted in this report.)