Legislation would weaken Alabama’s ethics law

Published 2:32 pm Thursday, March 12, 2020

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By PAUL DeMARCO | Guest Columnist

Note: This is an opinion column.

The Alabama Legislature has now been in session for over four weeks. And as with every session, there are dozens of bills filed by state representatives and senators for consideration.

Most of the legislation being debated  is local in nature and has no bearing outside of specific cities and counties. However, there is one statewide bill that is getting attention.

The piece of legislation that was recently filed would rewrite the state’s ethics laws and has drawn strong criticism.

One of the concerns is that the bill would change the way ethics complaints against public officials are addressed. Currently, a violation of the state’s ethics laws by a public official can be prosecuted by the state attorney general or a local district attorney.

The bill would change that and only allow the prosecution of such officials upon the recommendation and permission of the Alabama Ethics Commission which could hinder such prosecutions.

That is just one aspect of several ways that the bill would weaken the tools prosecutors use to hold accountable those individuals that violate the state’s ethics laws.

Alabama’s ethics laws were made some of the toughest in the Nation in 2010 after a series of corruption investigations lead to the arrest of a number of public officials and lobbyist.  A decade later this effort to weaken the state’s ethics laws is the last thing this state needs with all of the problems this state has had with dishonest public officials.

Paul DeMarco is a former member of the Alabama House of Representatives.