- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 4, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - The most powerful member of the state Senate couldn’t get his colleagues to rewrite the state ethics law the way he wanted Tuesday.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, proposed a bill to prevent former legislators for lobbying the Legislature for two years after they leave office. Democratic Sen. Hank Sanders of Selma proposed an amendment to Marsh’s bill that would make more changes in ethics and campaign finance laws affecting public officials.

A procedural vote showed Marsh didn’t have the yeas to stop Sanders‘ version, so the Republican leader ended up joining the Senate in a 33-0 vote to approve Sanders‘ broader legislation. The bill now goes to the House, where some Republicans predict it will be rewritten to reflect Marsh’s original bill.

Marsh said he is concerned about the constitutionality of Sanders‘ version, but it was difficult for senators to vote against it with legislative elections coming up. “I do think there was an attempt to get people on a bad vote,” Marsh said.

Sanders said Marsh’s version didn’t do much. “They don’t want real ethics reform. They just want things that look good, but don’t do good,” he said.

Marsh proposed his bill after three House members resigned last year. One joined a lobbying firm and two started working for political advocacy groups.

Currently, a former legislator can’t lobby the chamber in which he served for two years after leaving office. Marsh’s bill would extend the ban to both chambers.

Sanders‘ version goes much further.

It would prevent a former governor or family member from lobbying any entity of state government for four years after leaving office. It would prohibit any public official from lobbying the Legislature for two years after leaving office.

It would also ban businesses with state contracts and employers of state officials from giving campaign contributions to state officials. Another provision would prohibit family members of state officials from getting state contracts for two years after an official leaves office. And it would prohibit a public official or family member from being employed by a state agency or state educational institution during a term of office and for two years after the term ends.

Sanders‘ bill would also end the practice of public officials getting tickets to the top college sporting events at face value if the event is sold out and regular priced tickets are no longer available to the general public.

When Sanders offered his version, Marsh questioned whether it was a proper amendment because it addressed multiple state laws. Republican Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey ruled it wasn’t. She couldn’t get the votes in the Senate to sustain her ruling, and that led to Marsh deciding to vote for Sanders‘ version along with his Republican colleagues.

House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, said last week he supports Marsh’s original bill and wants it to pass in the House.

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