John Archibald wrote a column for Al.com accusing Rep. Jack Williams and the legislature of attempting to “gut the ethics law.” Williams didn’t mince words when addressing constituent concerns based on the column on his Facebook page, saying in part “the crux of his column is totally, 100% inaccurate.”
Alabama Today reached out to Williams via a phone interview to discuss the changes his legislation for the second special session, House Bill 18 proposes.
First let’s look at the 3 components of the bill as William’s explains via his Facebook:
- The least controversial part of the bill would lower the threshold of a widely attended event from 12 to 8. According to Williams, “This allows the Senate Democrat Caucus to meet with a group and eat while they are meeting.”
- The second provision according to Williams, “clears up coflicting opinions from the Attorney General’s office and the Ethics Commisioner’s office on legal defense funds for public officials. We patterned that section after federal guidelines.”
- The final provision,the one Archibald wrote about deals with legislators lobbying. According to Williams, “In 2014 the legislature passed an amendment to the ethics law that strengthened the revolving door prohibition on former legislators leaving – during their term – and becoming lobbyist. The ethics commission and the prosecutors wanted the language clarified – they wrote the provision John is questioning. Section 36-25-1.1 prohibits legislators from lobbying.”
It was the third section that Archibald took significant issue with. “The section John wrote about was incidental, and honestly, the least significant change. We clarify language in bills every year. That section was included at the suggestion of the Law Institute,” Williams said. That said, Williams said he would be open to adapting the language to make sure the spirit of the law wasn’t changed saying, “I don’t have a problem adding ‘current and former legislators’.”
He fully expected the second part to be the most controversial and it was certainly the part that got my attention. The second section deals with legal defense funds.
When Alabama Today asked Williams if this language was included for Hubbard he said, “I’m doing it for anyone…Mike is facing this and there’s a conflict between the AG’s opinion and the ethics commissioner.” He went on to explain that he has given, over the past 10-15 years to two legal defense funds. He said court costs involved for both officials charged with crimes related to their office cost over two million dollars and both elected officials were eventually cleared of all wrong doing.
So would it benefit, Hubbard? Williams says, “yes, him or anyone else.”