Commentary on Alabama Law and Society

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Location: Birmingham, Alabama

Thursday, May 04, 2006

There Has Been A Lot Of Corruption

In the news lately: The recently completed trial of Chris Mcnair; the current trial of Don Siegelman; the accusations by various candidates that other candidates have broken campaign finance rules.

Along those lines, WBHM had a good story this morning on the need for lobbying reform. The story focused on contributions, but I found this to be the most interesting part:

In Alabama and several other states, lawmakers don't have staff researchers who can examine legislation, provide independent advice, and work as a buffer between legislators and special interests. Instead, lawmakers like State Representative Dick Brewbaker often rely on lobbyists for research.

"You know I'm in the automobile business and before that I was a school teacher and when I'm asked to vote on issues dealing with Medicaid - you know, sometime it's hard to feel like you really have a handle on the information because the people offering you information have a dog in the fight."

Leaving our lawmakers dependent on the interested party for information is a recipe for bad legislation. Fixing this problem does not require indictments, or complex reporting laws, or potential first amendment violations. All we have to do is find some funding to ensure every legislator has access to independent researchers. Good information would go a long way toward ensuring laws are in the public interest.