Editorial: Tricked into doing the right thing — How the Alabama Legislature is creating a ‘real ethics’ bill
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Feb 06, 2014 | 2341 views |  0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston speaks to the Senate on the final day of the regular legislative session at the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., Monday, May 20, 2013. The House rejected Gov. Robert Bentley's proposal to delay allowing private school tax credits for two years, and the Republican leader in the Senate predicted it would do the same before the midnight end of the 2013 legislative session. That sent it to the Senate, where Marsh said the Republican majority had the votes to block the Republican governor's delay and begin the tax credits immediately. Photo: Dave Martin/The Associated Press
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston speaks to the Senate on the final day of the regular legislative session at the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., Monday, May 20, 2013. The House rejected Gov. Robert Bentley's proposal to delay allowing private school tax credits for two years, and the Republican leader in the Senate predicted it would do the same before the midnight end of the 2013 legislative session. That sent it to the Senate, where Marsh said the Republican majority had the votes to block the Republican governor's delay and begin the tax credits immediately. Photo: Dave Martin/The Associated Press
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Last year, Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, explained the trickery surrounding the passage of the Alabama Accountability Act by saying it wouldn’t have passed if he had followed the spirit of the rules and allowed vigorous debate on the bill. So he tricked his colleagues to do what he felt was the right thing.

The other day, Marsh found himself on the losing end of an ethics bill vote that the victor explained in much the same way.

It started when Marsh, in a move roundly applauded, introduced a bill that would close a loophole in Alabama ethics regulations and make it impossible for legislators to retire or resign and immediately go to work as a lobbyist.

That was as far as Marsh wanted to go.

Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, who reportedly had been working with Marsh, wanted to go farther. He introduced an amendment to the Marsh bill that would prohibit other public officials, as well as former governors or members of their families, from going immediately from office to lobbying.

Sanders did not stop there. His amendment also expanded the so-called “double-dipping law” to include more than state legislators, prohibited state contractors from giving campaign contributions and, horror of horrors, prohibited lawmakers from buying football tickets at prices not available to the general public.

Marsh, apparently caught off guard, asked Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey to block the amendment because it was not germane to the bill. Ivey, a good Republican team player, did as requested. But Democrats in the Senate protested, the Ivey ruling was put to a vote, and Ivey lost. The amendment was voted on, and it passed 33-0. The bill, as amended, also passed 33-0.

Some Republicans believe Sanders amended the original bill in an effort to kill it.

Sanders says he was only trying to make it a “real ethics” bill and feared that if he tried to push the additions through as a separate bill, the Republicans would vote it down because he was a Democrat.

So Sanders can say, as Marsh implied when the maneuvered the Alabama Accountability Act through the Senate, that he tricked his colleagues into doing the right thing.

Now the amended bill goes to the House, where it will test the seriousness of members of that chamber concerning “real ethics.”
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