MONTGOMERY — Attorney General Steve Marshall spoke out in opposition to legislation revising the state's Ethics Act after it passed a House Committee on Wednesday.

The bill sponsored by State Rep. Matt Simpson (R-Daphne) would, among other things, establish new five-year terms for the Alabama Ethics Commission director and a reappointment process subject to Senate confirmation. 

It would also transfer all criminal violations to the criminal code and would authorize the Alabama Ethics Commission to impose private warnings, public reprimands, civil penalties, and restitution for violations of the ethics code or Fair Campaign Practices Act. 

"As I have communicated to Rep. Simpson, I am opposed to his ethics legislation. As it stands, the bill weakens the substantive provisions of the Ethics Act and further empowers an Ethics Commission run amok. This bill would sideline my office and our state's district attorneys, replacing our prosecutorial discretion with that of an unaccountable agency riddled with controversy. I do not see this legislation as a solution to any of the problems we have identified with the Ethics Act or its enforcement," Marshall said in a statement to 1819 News after the bill was passed out of a House committee on Wednesday.

Marshall has sued the Alabama Ethics Commission and its director, Tom Albritton, multiple times in recent years.

Albritton also opposed the legislation last week during a public hearing. Albritton said, "This rewrite provides less restrictions on giving, not more which is a problem."

Simpson told 1819 News on Wednesday, "I feel really good about the bill. I feel like the bill is ready to go on the House floor. It's up to leadership, the Speaker, the Rules Committee, and the Rules Committee Chair at their discretion when the bill is there. I feel like I'm ready for it to go forward."

"Mostly what we've done through this bill is generally just to try to keep as much of the law the same, the way it is now. We've just kind of changed the procedure and how it's done," Simpson said. "We've taken the criminal penalties out of the ethics code and we've put them into the criminal code. Basically, if you can go to prison, if you can be arrested then it's in the criminal code. If you pay a fine or have some type of civil remedy, then that is through the ethics code. We've kind of just cut it down and put a clear delineation of if you go to prison, you have to be prosecuted by the AGs and the DA. We've created the crime of bribery and enhanced the punishment for bribery from the ethics code to the criminal code and we've created the crime of use of office for pecuniary gain and put that through. That way the bad stuff, the people that are doing the bad things that need to be sent to prison, it's just streamlined and that's why they go through the process."

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