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Alabama senators decide against unlimited lobbyist gifts

By KIM CHANDLER Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Alabama (AP) — Alabama lawmakers decided on Wednesday to shelve ethics legislation that would have allowed lobbyists to give unlimited gifts to public officials after critics said it would foster corruption.

The chairman Senate Judiciary Committee carried over a bill proposed by Republican Sen. Greg Albritton that would have made multiple changes to current ethics law, including eliminating an existing gift ban and instead requiring lobbyists to report everything they give.

“I have a hard time seeing it coming back,” said committee Chairman Cam Ward, a Republican from Alabaster. “It’s just too controversial, too fast. There are a lot of questions in there, a lot of concerns.”

Albritton said current law is confusing about what is allowed and what is illegal. He said it would be clearer to simply make a public record of everything given, and disagreed that it would weaken ethics enforcement.

“The one clear aspect of the current law is it lacks clarity,” said Albritton, R-Range.

The attorney general and state ethics director issued statements last week opposing the bill.

“This bill will encourage corruption, not discourage it,” said Alabama Ethics Commission Executive Director Tom Albritton, no relation to the bill’s sponsor.

A spokesman for Attorney General Steve Marshall said the changes would impair efforts to enforce key provisions of existing ethics laws.

Several committee members thanked the bill’s sponsor for his efforts, but said lawmakers should take more time in weighing changes.

“If it’s such a good bill then why is it that the attorney general is against it?” asked Democratic Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, noting the criticism from news media and constituents in her Mobile district.

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