Be ethical about ethics reform

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 6, 2010

Gov. Bob Riley is considering calling the legislature into special session on ethics reform before he leaves office in January, and Gov.-elect Robert Bentley says that’s OK with him.

But given that a special session this fall or winter could cost a minimum of $300,000, we’re not sure that’s the most ethical thing the governor could do.

Riley said the Republicans’ sweep of state offices in Tuesday’s election was mandate for the ethics measures that he says have been killed by Democrats and suggested a special session is needed while the issue is fresh on voters’ minds.

Skeptics should ask current Speaker Seth Hammett if the governor ever asked for his very-able assistance in getting ethics bills through the legislature.

Legislators elected Tuesday took office immediately. Bentley won’t take office until January. While the GOP has already caucused to determine who’ll be speaker and senate president pro-tem, those choices won’t be official until the organizational meeting on Jan. 11, 2011.

Certainly, there is a need for new ethics rules in Alabama, as evidenced by the recent indictments in an alleged vote-buying scheme for bingo legislation. We need more transparency in elections, which could be facilitated by a ban on PAC-to-PAC transfers. Whether the recent beneficiaries of PAC money will be willing kill the golden calf remains to be seen.

But a special session this fall or winter could cost $300,000. Bentley had already committed to call a special session within the regular session to address ethics reform, which would mean the legislators could only deal with ethics issues during the call. We can’t see spending $300,000 or more to speed up consideration of an ethics package by 90 days.

If the GOP is as committed to ethics reform as it has professed to be, it’ll will address the issue within the regular session and spare state taxpayers the additional $300,000 burden.

That’d be the ethical thing to do.