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Bill unlocks the “revolving door” for public employees

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After a brief introduction lasting approximately three minutes, SB177 passed out of the Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee with a favorable report.

If the legislation sponsored by Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman, becomes law, it will radically alter the “revolving door” statute permitting any public employee to leave a government job and immediately return as a representative for that entity or another government agency.

Under existing law, former public officials and public employees are prohibited from serving as a lobbyist or otherwise representing clients before the governmental body for which he or she had served or worked for two years after leaving office or employment.

This legislation would open the door for all types of public employees to avoid the current law.

However, Gudger’s bill does away with the two-year prohibition on public employees, allowing them to freely serve as agents of their former boss or another government body.

Under state law, a public employee is defined in part as, “Any person employed at the state, county, or municipal level of government or their instrumentalities.”

“We see a distinction between public employees who move to other public employment and those who leave for jobs in private industry,” said Sonny Brasfield, Executive Director of the Association of County Commissions of Alabama. “The bill leaves in place the strong prohibition against shifting from public employment to private employment, but creates an exception that we feel is appropriate for public employees who want to continue to work in the public sector.”

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The proposed legislation was presented to the state’s attorney general’s office for analysis as well as ethics officials.

Gudger, who is vice-chair of the committee, did not explain why the legislation was needed and neither did any of the committee members ask for a reason for the drastic rewrite of the state’s ethics law.

Why it was passed out of the Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development committee rather than ethics or judiciary raises questions as well, as does the fact that there was no discussion.

Republican lawmakers made ethics reform a centerpiece of their efforts to wrestle power from Democrats in 2010. Having succeeded in gaining control of the State House, Republican lawmakers passed what would be called the toughest ethics laws in the nation.

Legislation currently proposed by Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, would render the existing State Ethics Act useless as an effective tool to regulate the behavior of public officials and employees.

Opinion | Deception, subtlety and the wholesale destruction of current ethics laws mark proposed rewrite

Since the indictment and conviction of Mike Hubbard—the former Speaker of the House who led the charge to swing the Legislature to Republican control, many of his former colleagues have sought to rewrite the ethics laws championed ten years ago. Gudger, a newcomer to the state Senate, was not a part of the class that passed the 2010 ethics laws.

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Hubbard was sentenced to state prison nearly four years ago but currently remains free pending a ruling by the State Supreme Court.

The bill passed out of committee unanimously with both Democrats and Republicans supporting the measure.

Committee members are as follows:

  • Chair Steve Livingston
  • Vice-Chair Garlan Gudger
  • Will Barfoot
  • Tom Butler
  • Clyde Chambliss
  • Vivian Davis Figures
  • Arthur Orr
  • Dan Roberts
  • Malika Sanders-Fortier
  • Clay Scofield
  • Cam Ward

Article was updated for clarity.

 

Bill Britt
Written By

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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