Thursday, December 9, 2010

Descriptions of bills for Alabama Legislature's special session on ethics

Published: Wednesday, December 08, 2010, 9:00 PM ??? Updated: Wednesday, December 08, 2010, 9:11 PM
Here is a description of each bill that will be considered during the Alabama Legislature's special session on ethics:

Gift limits: Would cap what a lobbyist can spend on a public official to $25 per occasion and no more than $100 from any one source per year. The limit also applies to the corporations, people and entities that employ lobbyists. Lobbyists will also be required to report everything they spend on public officials. The limits would extend to not just state politicians but local elected leaders. There are exemptions to the gift limits, including travel and lodging to educational conferences, economic development trips and events where the public official is invited to speak.

Ethics Commission power: Would allow the Alabama Ethics Commission to subpoena witnesses and investigations if four out of five commissioners vote to do so. Currently the commission has no subpoena power. The proposal would also allow the commission to initiate investigations if four out of the five members agree.

"Double Dipping": Would prohibit a member of the Alabama Legislature from holding another job with state government or public education, including two-year and four-year colleges.

PAC-to-PAC transfers: Would ban transfers of campaign donations between political action committees.

Pass-through appropriations: Would prohibit legislators from directing state agency heads to spend money for projects not authorized by the state budget. The practice is sometimes criticized as "pass through pork." The legislation would make it a class C misdemeanor for an agency head to spend "pass through appropriations."

Executive branch lobbying/online database: Would require lobbyists who lobby the executive branch of government for state contracts to also register with the state. Also directs the Alabama Ethics Commission to create a searchable database of all gifts and meals that have been given to public officials. The bill does not provide a funding source for the commission to create the database.

Political activity: Would prohibit payroll deductions from the paychecks of state, local and public school employees for political action committees.

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