Everyone in Alabama — excluding those politicians who benefit from the status quo — knows we need immediate and profound ethics reform. One embarrassment after another has plagued our state, and the corruption will not end until we reform the ethics laws. Don’t hold your breath, though. Montgomery power brokers like Sens. Lowell Barron and Roger Bedford have too much to lose with change. So do numerous special interests — especially gambling — who depend on their power being anonymous to the public.
For that reason, The Daily has been pushing hard in recent weeks to get commitments from the two candidates for governor to make a change. Democratic Ron Sparks took a half step in the right direction while speaking in Decatur today.
He promised he would hold a special session on ethics reform if he wins the election.
The Daily’s effort has been for a special session because that’s the only way we can imagine anything happening. (See my Sunday column and our Monday editorial.) The attention of the state — and reporters from every media outlet in the state — will have to be focused on the legislature for anything to change.
Sparks’ commitment to a special session on ethics reform was only a half step because of his rather bizarre caveat: he wants a special session on gambling and the lottery, first.
I call this bizarre because the 11 recent indictments — and more probably are on there way — involved gambling. Even if one accepts Sparks’s proposition that taxed gambling would help the state, his suggestion that ethics reform come after a legislative consensus to allow gambling is odd. It is the gambling interests that have created the most ethical problems. We need to clean up corruption in the political system before we consider whether gambling is appropriate in Alabama.
A half step is better than no step at all, though. Let’s hope Bentley supports the idea of a special session before we take up gambling or any other issue.