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Monday, September 5, 2016

Attorney general opposes idea of ethics review panel Updated Sep 4, 2016

Blogger Comments from Decatur Daily article September 4, 2016.

Really Big Luther Strange?  You had an abundance of information to slap on Sheriff Ana Franklin over the past 5 1/2 years and you chose not to address it.  We encourage our readers to go back through the blogs and search blogs on Jonathan Stebbins and Sheriff Ana Franklin.   According to our sources you placed the information in file 13.

We agree there probably isn't anything wrong with the laws.  The problem is with the folks who are responsible for enforcing the laws.  Like you.  Sure you wanted Hubbard out of the way.  But we are certain you do not want sheriff Ana Franklin out of the way.  Our question to you is WHY! 

A quotable quote in the Decatur Daily article from Strange is laughable.  “The whole point of such a commission would be to undermine the law. Alabamians want our ethics laws enforced, not gutted.”  You are right Luther Strange we want our ethics laws enforced, not gutted.  That is a "Strange" comment coming from Strange.  That is exactly the opposite of what you have done in the case of Sheriff Ana Franklin. 

MONTGOMERY — On Thursday, Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, held a press conference in Montgomery where he said he wanted the Legislature to create a panel to review the state’s ethics laws and suggest changes. He didn’t say what he specifically wanted to change in the laws, but said clarification is needed.
The next day, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange criticized the proposal.
“I am strongly opposed to Rep. Mike Ball’s idea of a commission to review Alabama’s ethics law,” Strange said. “The whole point of such a commission would be to undermine the law. Alabamians want our ethics laws enforced, not gutted.”
It was Strange’s office that prosecuted former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, convicted in June of 12 felony ethics violations.
Cost to be tallied
In August, when it was still possible a lottery proposal could go before Alabama voters, it was said a special statewide election would cost about $3 million if the referendum didn’t get on the Nov. 8 ballot.
But Secretary of State John Merrill later said that figure is nearly two decades old and inaccurately low.
“We will get a better number after the general election in November,” Merrill said. To do that, the secretary of state will reach out to probate judges to determine their costs.
“We will have a more accurate number instead of an 18-year-old number,” he said.
Alabamians won’t be asked to vote on a lottery anytime soon. That proposal died in the Senate.
No age restrictions?
Voters will get to decide in November if they want to get rid of maximum age restrictions for some elected and appointed officials.
House Bill 31 passed the Legislature last month. It is a constitutional amendment that if approved by voters would repeal maximum age restrictions “for the appointment, election, or service of an appointed or elected official.” It also says the Legislature can’t enact any age restrictions.
The exceptions in the proposal are any judicial offices, where age limits would still apply.
Getting rid of age limits would impact some university boards, including the University of Alabama and Auburn University, and the Alabama Commission for Higher Education. They require board members to leave office when they turn 70.
“We have had experience with some really good commissioners who have had to step down before their term is over,” ACHE spokeswoman Margaret Gunter said last week.
House Bill 31 was sponsored by Rep. Victor Gaston, R-Mobile.
“I’ve been bothered for a long time that if you’re 70, you can’t be appointed to a board of trustees,” Gaston said last week. “I guess as I get older, I realize that people 70 and older are active in their professions and should be able to serve. I hope the voters agree with me.”
Neither the University of North Alabama nor Athens State University has maximum age restrictions for board members.
Move to dismiss
Attorneys for Gov. Robert Bentley have moved to dismiss a lawsuit brought by state Auditor Jim Zeigler and Shoals lawmaker Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow.
The lawsuit, filed in July, is an attempt to stop Bentley from spending $50 million in state BP settlement money on a hotel and conference center at Gulf State Park.
Morrow, D-Red Bay, said last week that the BP money should have been appropriated by the Legislature, not Bentley.
“If he can (appropriate money), then why do we need the Legislature?” Morrow said. “Collect taxes and let him appropriate it the way he wants to.”
But the BP money isn’t tax money, Bentley’s attorneys argue in the dismissal.
“The Alabama State Legislature has no right of control over these funds. Nor does the Auditor of the State of Alabama,” the dismissal motion states.
Zeigler last week said his attorney is drafting a response.
In July, a Montgomery circuit judge threw out a similar lawsuit brought by a former conservation department employee because the funds came from BP, not taxpayers.
Besides Bentley, the newer lawsuit names the state’s heads of finance and conservation as defendants. Those three offices have contracts worth a total of $100,000 for an outside attorney to represent them, according to information from the legislative contract review committee.
Zeigler said his attorney will only get paid if he wins the case.
The Associated Press reported earlier this year that Bentley said the 350-room lodge, trails and other improvements at Gulf State Park will be an asset for Alabama. Twitter @DD_MarySell.

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