Governor calls special session

Published 9:26 am Monday, December 6, 2010

State Rep. Alan Baker said he thinks next week’s special session on ethics will produce “meaningful reform.”
Gov. Bob Riley has called for a special session to begin Wednesday on ethics reform, with proposals that would include limit lobbyist gifts to lawmakers and eliminate transfers between political action committees.
“I expect we’ll pass some meaningful reform,” Baker said. “How far we go will depend.”
Riley said the new members of the Legislature — which is now majority Republican for the first time since Reconstruction — can help enact new reforms.
“Thanks to last month’s elections, we have an historic opportunity to not only reform this corrupt political culture but end it. The opportunity to enact real reforms has never been better and the need has never been greater,” Riley said in a statement.
Riley’s reform proposals include:
• full disclosure of spending by lobbyists on all public officials and public employees;
• an end to unlimited gift-giving by lobbyists and others to public officials and public employees;
• subpoena power for the Alabama Ethics Commission;
• a ban on “pass-through pork” spending;
• a ban on lawmakers serving in other government positions.
Baker said he expects the PAC-to-PAC transfers and subpoena power for the ethics commission to pass, among other proposals.
“I think with the new chemistry (in the Legislature) there will be a much more receptive climate,” he said.
Democrats said they support reform but criticized the timing of the special session and said Gov.-elect Bentley should have called it after his inauguration.
Riley said the need for a special session is critical because the momentum for reforms may not last.
“Delay does nothing but allow the special interests to continue with business as usual,” Riley said. “If we wait until the regular session begins in March to even begin discussing these reforms, we would have accomplished nothing but give the special interests a three-month head start on concocting ways to kill reforms — and, believe me, they’ve already started.
“Delay gives them three more months to hide campaign contributions through PAC-to-PAC transfers. It gives them three more months to deploy their armies of lobbyists to try to influence legislators over drinks, dinner and rounds of golf.”
Bentley said he supports the special session.
“Once we get this behind us, we can all devote our full attention to creating jobs and putting the people of Alabama back to work,” Bentley said. “I look forward to working with the Legislature to help bring about real ethics reform for our state.”