Legislation has been pre-filed for an amendment to the Alabama Constitution of 1901 that would abolish the office of State Auditor.
The bill is Senate Bill 38.
SB38 is sponsored by State Sen. Andrew Jones (R-Centre).
“Prior to filling the bill, I reached out and had good conversations with two of the auditor candidates that I had contact information for, as well as current auditor Jim Ziegler,” Jones told 1819 News. “It seems there are two main schools of thought about the auditor position: either consolidate it with another position and downsize government; or add responsibilities and strengthen the auditor's office. However, the latter is very difficult to do, as the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts is already doing a phenomenal job in auditing the use of public dollars. To me, at this time, consolidating the position into the Treasurer's office makes the most sense.”
According to the bill synopsis: “Under existing law, the Office of State Auditor is charged with certain responsibilities and duties including maintaining the property inventory of state property. The State Auditor also makes an appointment to each county board of registrars. This bill would propose an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to merge the Office of State Auditor into the Office to the State Treasurer commencing after the expiration of the term of office in January 2031. The amendment would also transfer the duty of the State Auditor to make an appointment to each local board of registrars to the State Treasurer.”
There are four Republicans running for State Auditor and all four candidates have stated that they believe that the Auditor should have the powers of the office strengthened as the writers of the 1901 Constitution intended and not simply be abolished.
“The State Auditor is the only Constitutional Officer that provides a true Check &amp;amp;amp; Balance between the taxpayers and the tax-spenders,” Auditor candidate Stan Cooke told 1819 News. “It would require a Constitutional Amendment to eliminate the Office. The State Auditor answers to the people of Alabama. Integrity, transparency and accountability are the standards of this office.
"The Legislature should not be seeking to abolish the constitutional office of State Auditor,” Auditor candidate Brent Woodall told 1819 News. “It should, instead, eliminate the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts, which it created in the 1940s. Although many Alabamians may not realize this, the State Auditor doesn't audit anything. That's because when the Alabama Legislature created the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts, it gave it the responsibility of auditing government accounts rather than the State Auditor. It pays the people who run that department very well. In fact, the person who runs that department makes more money than Governor Ivey and Jim Ziegler, our current State Auditor make, combined.”
State Rep. Andrew Sorrell (R-Muscle Shoals) is also running for State Auditor.
“I appreciate Sen. Jones for reaching out to me to discuss this bill with me yesterday,” Sorrell told 1819 News. “The way he has structured the bill where the changes won’t take effect until eight years from now proves that it is not his intention to target any specific person with this bill. Sen. Jones is correct that Alabama’s Auditor position is relatively weak compared to other states. I encouraged him to work with me to strengthen the position instead of eliminating it and we had a lengthy and productive conversation. I look forward to working with him and other legislators in restoring duties and responsibilities to the position that never should have been taken away if I am fortunate enough to be elected Auditor. I believe it would be a mistake to eliminate this position.”
“This is a constitutional amendment, so ultimately the voters will have the final say, should the legislature approve this bill for the ballot,” Jones said. “No matter which side you are on, however, almost everyone agrees that the current situation is untenable. Taxpayers spend around a million dollars a year on a constitutional office simply there to inventory state property. Countless additional dollars are spent holding elections for this position. Through merging the position of Auditor into the office of State Treasurer, we can save these needed taxpayer dollars.”
Cooke said that giving more power to the Examiner of Public Accounts, a position handpicked by the legislature, only takes power from the people and weakens the checks and balances in the State Constitution.
“I question the motives of any individual that wants to eliminate this Constitutional Office and transfer the Auditor’s constitutional authority to a state bureaucracy that never answers to the voters," said Cooke. "The Budget of the Alabama State Examiners office in 2021 was $8,480,746 while the State Auditors budget for the same time period was $853,172...The Department of Examiners of Public Accounts receives 10 Times the Budget as compared to the State Auditor's Office and this bloated government agency was created by a Democrat Governor and Democrat-controlled Legislature many years ago."
"I urge the Legislature to save the state of Alabama money, reduce the size of state government, and restore respect to the Alabama Constitution,” Woodall said. “It can achieve all three of these conservative principles by eliminating the unnecessary and expensive department it created and strengthen the Office of State Auditor.”
Cooke is the Pastor of the Kimberly Church of God and has a global ministry with offices in both the U.S. and Israel.
Woodall is an attorney in the Florence area. He previously worked for the U.S. Attorney’s office, the Alabama Attorney General’s office, the Alabama Judicial System, and the Public Service Commission.
Current State Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) opposes the legislation.
“They should combine the Auditor and the Examiner of Public Accounts,” Zeigler told 1819 News.
Former State Sen. Rusty Glover (R-Semmes) is also running for State Auditor.
“I want to note that every candidate running for either auditor or treasurer will have the opportunity to serve two full terms (the maximum) prior to the positions being combined,” Jones added. “My hope is that these quality candidates on the ballot can work toward the goal of having a seamless transition when a new official takes office in 2031 for a combined State Treasurer and Auditor position.”
SB38 has been assigned to the Senate Committee on Government Affairs, which is Chaired by Sen. Jimmy Holley (R-Elba).
The first day of the 2022 Alabama Regular Legislative Session was Jan. 11.
The major party primaries are on May 24.
To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email brandon.moseley@1819News.com.