Riley’s bills: Four down, three to go

Published 8:07 pm Wednesday, December 15, 2010

MONTGOMERY. (AP) — Gov. Bob Riley has won passage of four ethics bills designed to change how the Alabama Legislature operates, but he still has three to go.

Republicans in the Legislature cut off stalling tactics by Democrats and passed Riley’s bill Wednesday that will end automatic payroll deductions for public employees’ groups if they use the money for political activity. The bill, which stops payroll deductions for the Alabama Education Association’s multimillion dollar political action committee, cleared the House 52-49 and the Senate 22-12. Critics said the measure was retaliation by the new Republican-controlled Legislature. It now goes to the governor for his signature into law.

Also Wednesday, lawmakers voted unanimously to give final approval to two other bills. One bans the transfer of political contributions between political action committees, which is often used to disguise the original source of the money.

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The other requires ethics training for elected officials and makes people who lobby the executive and judicial branches of state government register with the State Executive Commission. Legislative lobbyists already register their names and clients.

On Tuesday, the Legislature passed Riley’s bill prohibiting legislators from putting “pass-through pork” in the state budgets. That is extra money a legislator puts into a state agency’s appropriation without allocating it for a specific purpose, but is usually part of a behind-the-scenes agreement with the agency director to spend it on a project of the legislator’s choosing.

“It has no place in an open, honest and transparent government,” Riley said.

Legislators continued work Wednesday night to try to wrap up the last three bills in the governor’s package. They would bar lobbyists from spending money to entertain public officials, prohibit legislators from having a second job in state government and give the State Ethics Commission the power to issue subpoenas.