John Archibald of The Birmingham News/al.com
wrote a scathing column about a bill recently introduced into the Alabama legislature which he described as the "systematic dismantling of the ethics law."
SB 279, introduced by Republican State Senator Gerald Dial, includes provisions which grant immunity to lawmakers and state employees who seek an "informal opinon" from the Ethics Commission, even if the question posed is patently unethical. As Archibald puts it:
So if a lawyer at the Ethics Commission decides, say, that lobbying the governor is not illegal, even though the law says it is, the person who lobbied the governor gets a Don't Go to Jail card.
Thanks for asking. And go in peace.
But that's not even the worst of it. Not really. The bill – they ought to call it the Mark Twain Bill because it proves old Mark's adage that nothing and no one is safe when the Legislature is in session – would also make corrupt public officials almost untouchable to state prosecutors.
It says the Attorney General's office and county district attorneys' offices can no longer step up and step in to investigate violations of the ethics law.
Archibald says the bill is expressly designed to benefit Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard, currently under indictment on multiple ethics charges. Sen. Dial has vigorously denied any implications that the bill is designed to help Hubbard introduce reasonable doubt into his trial defense, telling alreporter.com:
I respect our judicial process and trust those who perform those duties to comply with laws already passed by our legislative process, proposed bills would never be retroactive and to imply that proposed legislation would cause benefit or harm any case is simply untrue.
Read the whole bill in question here.