Though State Rep. Matt Simpson's (R-Daphne) effort to update Alabama ethics laws failed to pass during the latest session, he's not giving up the fight.

Simpson’s ethics reform bill passed the House by a wide margin in April but failed in the Senate.

Last Friday on FM Talk 1065’s “Midday Mobile with Sean Sullivan,” Simpson explained why the bill is important even though it came up short.

“This has always been a multi-year plan,” Simpson said. “… I was hopeful the bill would pass this year, but something this big takes a long time.”

The relevant portion begins around the 9:45 mark.

Many of the bill’s critics were concerned it would “weaken” the state's current laws and legalize some things currently prohibited.

“There couldn’t be anything further from the truth, in my opinion, for what we were trying to do,” Simpson said. “We just tried to say, these are what the lines are; these are where you can and can’t go.”

He continued, “There’s nobody being prosecuted for a $35 lunch, but a $35 lunch is against the law. Why have it as law if you’re not going to enforce it? What happens when you don’t enforce laws then people push a little further… That’s not just politicians; that’s the nature of humans.”

Simpson said the current ethics laws are vast and confusing to follow. He also said their enforcement is often tantamount to “extortion.”

“There were some instances that they had specifically where the ethics commission would say, ‘You know, Y is a crime. You’re looking at 20 years in prison. But if you plea to A, we’ll just make you pay a fine on A. So if you pay a fine on A, you’ll go right back to doing your job, nobody will no what happened, everything will be good to go.’ That’s extortion in my mind.”

His bill faced a few obstacles that hindered its passing, Simpson said, including opposition from Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall and the Ethics Commission.

“I think we got into a little bit of a turf war where the Ethics Commission thinks this gives too much power to the Attorney General’s Office, and the Attorney General thinks it still gives too much power to the Ethics Commission,” he said. “I stand by the belief that I’m the only person in Alabama to get Steve Albritton and Steve Marshall to agree on anything.”

Simpson said the next step is to get an outside opinion from an ethics expert who has studied what the other 49 states and the federal government are doing with their laws.

“Everybody knows there’s problems with our ethics laws in Alabama,” he said. “You’ve seen a report after report from task forces, from criminal appeals opinions, from Supreme Court opinions, everybody who’s looked at this says, ‘Man, these laws are jacked up.

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