As the House Ethics Committee continues work to draft legislation revising Alabama’s ethics laws, it looked back at the recent history of ethics legislation.
Major reforms in 2010 tightened the law on relationships between lobbyists, their employers and legislators. Although former House speaker Mike Hubbard was successfully convicted under the ethics laws in 2016, an appeals court urged the Legislature in a 2018 ruling to make some of the language more clear.
James Entrekin Jr., general counsel for the Legislative Services Agency, walked the committee through the past decade of ethics legislation before focusing on two bills from 2019 and 2022 that failed.
Two laws since then have given more leeway to public officials. In 2012, legislation passed raising the threshold for filing a Statement of Economic Interest from $50,000 to $75,000. An SEI form allows the public to understand a public officials economic interests to watch for areas where policy decisions may intersect, and potentially conflict, with those interests.
In 2019, the law extended the time for a candidate to file an SEI form, adding five days to file their form after establishing their candidacy.
One of the failed laws was pushed by former State Rep. Mike Ball, R-Daphne, that would have lessened penalties for public officials who take gifts without proof of intent to violate the ethics law.
Intentional violations would have remained a Class be Felony under Ball’s failed bill, but “standard violations” would have been reduced from Class A misdemeanors to civil penalties. The first offense would constitute a $3,000 fine and the second violation would warrant a $6,000 fine. Subsequent violations would be Class A misdemeanors.
There is one informational meeting remaining for the committee, as a representative of American Law Institute will be making a presentation at its November meeting.
The committee will begin actually crafting the new legislation in the new year, just before the start of the new legislative session in February 2024.