The Star’s editorial board has been one the Legislature’s biggest critics, but we have also been fair in our comments. For the sake of fairness, then, it is our responsibility to call attention when that same leadership does something right.
House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, and Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, deserve recognition for considering legislation that would tighten restrictions on former lawmakers who want to work as lobbyists on Goat Hill. We hope it becomes law.
What got Hubbard and Marsh thinking along these lines was the decision by Rep. Jim Barton, R-Mobile, to leave the House and go to work for a lobbying firm.
That is not illegal so long as Barton (or any other former legislator) does not lobby the chamber in which he served. As the law is currently written and interpreted, Barton can lobby senators but not representatives. So could Rep. Jay Love, R-Montgomery, who plans to resign, though he has not indicated what he will do afterward.
Although the House and Senate are separate, they work so closely and their members share so much information that to lobby one can be, in effect, lobbying both.
A solution is needed.
According to Marsh, “the best thing to do would be to pass legislation that has a two-year restriction on either house regardless of which house you leave.”
Jim Sumner, director of the state Ethics Commission, agrees. This proposal, he said, “is much cleaner and serves the public interest far better if (the prohibition) is from lobbying the entire Legislature.”
When the GOP became the majority party in the Legislature, it passed seven ethics-reform bills. One of the bills contained the current restrictions on lobbyists. Marsh and Hubbard have indicated that legislation needs to be reviewed and revised for the better.
This page supports that effort and hopes our legislative leaders take the same hard look at other bills they have recently passed.