Not perfect, but much needed reform

Published 5:13 pm Monday, December 20, 2010

It took until the wee hours of the morning, but the Alabama legislature passed some laws that will bring real ethics reform to the state.

They aren’t perfect, and I am sure it will be a matter of time before their loopholes are used and abused. It is, however, a step in the right direction.

Example one: Under the old law, lobbyists could spend up to $250 a day entertaining a politician. This money could come in the form of sporting tickets, lavish dinners or any other form of entertainment. And until it hit the $250 threshold, the donors did not have to disclose this little “gift”.

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Now, lobbyists can spend a mere $25 on a meal, with a limit of $150 per year. The companies that employ lobbyists can spend a little more, max $50 per meal, with a $250 yearly limit. But accountability and transparency have been greatly improved.

In a state that just saw 11 indictments handed out in a statewide corruption scandal, these laws will work to restore the people’s trust in government.

The banning of PAC to PAC transfers, the end of pass-though-pork and the banning of dual employment by elected officials will allow legislators to think more about what his or her constituents want as opposed to merely echoing the wishes of the largest monetary supporters.

While it won’t end the practice of using money as influence, it will allow citizens to know who is trying to do so.

The icing on the cake, in my opinion, would be the bestowing of subpoena power to the Alabama Ethics Commission. All the laws and regulations in the world won’t do any good if there is no real way to enforce them.

Rejoice, Alabamians and woe to all who sell themselves to the highest bidder.

The people, finally, are watching.