Connect with us

Legislature

Bill unlocks the “revolving door” for public employees

Bill Britt

Published

on

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.”

Public Service Announcement

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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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.

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 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.

Advertisement

Corruption

Former State Sen. David Burkette pleads guilty, avoids jail

Josh Moon

Published

on

Former Alabama Sen. David Burkette

Former State Sen. David Burkette will avoid jail time and be sentenced to a 30-day suspended sentence as part of a plea deal reached on Monday. 

Burkette, who pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Fair Campaign Practices Act, will also have to pay a $3,000 fine and serve 12 months of probation as part of the deal. He was sentenced in Montgomery Circuit Court on Monday after being charged two weeks ago with failing to deposit more than $3,600 in contributions into campaign accounts — a misdemeanor.

He also resigned his seat in the Alabama Senate as part of the plea deal. 

“I’m just happy to still be here,” Burkette told the court following his sentencing, according to multiple media reports. 

The former senator suffered a stroke in 2018 and has been confined to a wheelchair since. His current health status played a role in his sentence considerations. 

The charges against Burkette stem from a series of complaints filed against him with the Alabama Ethics Commission — all of them related to various issues during his time on the Montgomery City Council. The charge for which he pleaded guilty occurred in 2015.

The Ethics Commission referred numerous charges to the Alabama attorney general’s office, according to sources familiar with the investigation of Burkette, but the attorney general’s office elected to charge Burkette with only the misdemeanor as part of the deal that saw him resign. 

Public Service Announcement

“Candidates for public office at the state, county and municipal levels must comply with the State’s Fair Campaign Practices Act,” said Attorney General Steve Marshall. “Personally profiting from campaign funds erodes public confidence in the system and will not be tolerated.”

Continue Reading

Legislature

Former state senator arrested on charges of violating campaign finance laws

Josh Moon

Published

on

Former State Sen. David Burkette

David Burkette has been officially arrested. The former state senator from Montgomery, who resigned on Tuesday as part of a plea deal with the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, was formally charged on Thursday with a single misdemeanor count of violating the Fair Campaign Practices Act. 

According to a press release from the AG’s office, Burkette’s charge stems from him depositing campaign donations into his personal account instead of into his campaign accounts, as required by the FCPA. The alleged crimes occurred in 2015 and 2016 when Burkette was serving on the Montgomery City Council. 

The complaint alleged that, in 2015 and 2016 while running for the Montgomery City Council, Burkette intentionally failed to deposit $3,625.00 in campaign contributions into his campaign checking account, and instead, deposited or cashed those contributions into or against his personal bank account,” the AG’s release stated. 

The single misdemeanor charge is surprising given the lengthy list of allegations against Burkette submitted to the Alabama Ethics Commission. APR obtained a copy of the original report, which was submitted in October 2018. 

In addition to more than $40,000 in allegedly improperly spent council discretionary funds that were flagged by auditors for the city of Montgomery, Burkette was also accused of inappropriately donating tens of thousands more to suspect charities and two sororities, including his wife’s.

The Ethics Commission referred Burkette’s case to the AG’s Office in October 2019.

Public Service Announcement
Continue Reading

Legislature

Pro-Growth Conference kicks off with Doug Jones, discussions on COVID impact and a living wage

Josh Moon

Published

on

Sen. Doug Jones speaks on the floor of the U.S. Senate. (VIA CSPAN)

What happens if you just give impoverished citizens $500 per month — no strings attached? Good things, it turns out. The people use that income to buy food, medicine and basic necessities for life. They take a day off work if they’re sick and actually get treatment. They quit a second, hourly-wage job that they are overqualified for and instead work towards obtaining a better, higher-paying primary job. 

These are things that the city of Stockton, California, has learned in its year-long living wage program.

The program, while limited in size — only 125 people — has proven to be a larger success than city officials had hoped, and it has opened their eyes to a new, more proactive style of governance, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs told Alabama elected officials. 

Tubbs was the featured speaker on Tuesday at the first day of the Pro-Growth Policy Conference, a three-day forum for Alabama elected leaders with guest speakers from around the country offering tips and best practices. 

The first day of the conference began with an opening talk from Sen. Doug Jones, who pressed the need for Medicaid expansion and how expansion has aided other red states. Jones also highlighted the need for broadband expansion and talked about a bill he has in the Senate that would create a broadband main office and dish out about $20 million in money for affordable access.

“Now (with COVID), we know how needed it really is,” Jones said. “We see the homework gap that we have. We know there’s a need for more telemedicine. My bill would consolidate in one office all of the monies for broadband … and provide affordable access.”

Jones said the current COVID pandemic has highlighted just how badly we need better access to broadband in Alabama, and a major area of concern right now is healthcare. 

Public Service Announcement

Highlighting that point, Brandon Garrett, the chief operating officer of the National Minority Quality Forum, and Dr. LaTasha Lee, the vice-president of social and clinical research, demonstrated the many ways in which inequality in health care and health care options is harming impoverished communities. 

A number of factors play into that inequality, but a lack of access to updated means of communication and tools is one of the biggest. 

“(Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) said that, ‘Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane because it results in physical death,’” Lee said. “That’s what we’re seeing currently with COVID-19 and sickle cell disease. These two diseases are affecting the minority community and causing death, and they make a great argument that such health care disparities really are a social justice issue.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Correcting such issues was one of the goals of Stockton’s living wage experiment. Now, Tubbs said, a working person can afford to stay home or get tested if they’re feeling symptomatic, whereas before that person — scared of missing a paycheck or losing the job altogether — might come to work with the virus and infect an entire workplace. 

That alone, Tubbs said, has restored dignity to a number of residents. 

“This is not easy, especially with budgets the way they are,” Tubbs said. “But I don’t know how we continue to live with the status quo as it is.

“I think part of being a leader, as we are, is having the courage to do something about what we’re seeing. We have to be able to do that.”

The Pro-Growth Policy Conference will run both Wednesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Wednesday’s round of conferences will focus on state grants, economic development around the state and what the 2021 legislative session might look like. 

On Thursday, the event will wrap up with talks by the Equal Justice Initiative’s Bryan Stevenson and Alabama Congresswoman Terri Sewell.

 

Continue Reading

Elections

Russell Bedsole wins Republican runoff in HD49

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

House District 49 Republican nominee Russell Bedsole

As of press time, it appears that Russell Bedsole has won a narrow victory over Mimi Penhale in the special Republican primary runoff election in Alabama House District 49.

At press time, Bedsole had a 166-vote lead in unofficial results on the secretary of state’s website.

“We won,” Bedsole declared on social media.

Bedsole is an Alabaster city councilman and a Shelby County Sheriff’s Department captain.

“Sadly, tonight did not turn out in my favor. Despite the loss, I feel like God truly used this opportunity to help me grow in my walk with Him, and gave me the opportunity to increase my testimony,” Penhale said. “I feel so incredibly blessed by the people I have met on this campaign and the experiences I have had. I am disappointed in the outcome, but what an honor it is to have the confidence of 1,183 people across House District 49! Thank you!!”

Russell Bedsole had 1,249 votes, or 51.36 percent, to Mimi Penhale’s 1,183, or 48.64 percent, to win the House District 49 Republican primary runoff.

There were just 2,432 votes cast in the special primary runoff election. Shelby County was the decisive factor in the election. Bedsole won Shelby County with 762 votes, or 71.42 percent, to Penale’s 305 votes.

Public Service Announcement

Penhale carried Chilton and Bibb Counties, but could not overcome Bedsole’s strong performance in Shelby County.

The provisional ballots will be counted on Sept. 8, 2020, and certification of votes will occur on Sept. 16, 2020.

Bedsole will face Democratic nominee Sheryl Patton in the special general election on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020.

ADVERTISEMENT

The vacancy in House District 49 was created when State Rep. April Weaver announced her resignation to accept a presidential appointment as a regional director in the Department of Health and Human Services.

In a statement, the Alabama Republican Party thanked “each of the candidates that qualified for offering themselves up for service in the Alabama State House of Representatives.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement