BIRMINGHAM, AL - Republican gubernatorial candidate Bradley Byrne stopped in Birmingham Tuesday to outline his plans for wiping out what he calls the "culture of corruption" that plagues Alabama government.
A former Alabama Board of Education member and state senator, Byrne has recieved much credit for reforming and cleaning up the state's two-year college system.
Byrne chose to unveil his planned ethics reforms in Birmingham, a city still reeling from the latest public official to be convicted on ethics violations.
"It's become practically epidemic. It seems like just about every time you pick up the paper or turn on the television anywhere in Alabama you hear another story of public scandal or government wrong-doing," Byrne told reporters at his afternoon news conference. "The people of Alabama deserve better. Unless we bring a new culture of honest public service, integrity and ethics to state government, Alabama's image at home and abroad, along with our hope for the future, will be crushed under the weight of public cynicism, mistrust, and disrespect."
"Alabama's next governor and Legislature will face unprecedented challenges that will require the public's patience and support," Byrne said. "Faced with issues ranging from potentially paralyzing budget shortages to increasingly intrusive federal programs and mandates, if our legislative leaders don't start earning the trust and confidence of those they were chosen to serve, we'll never muster the unified strength needed to overcome our obstacles and create new opportunity."
Byrne says the next governor must make ethics reform a top priority. "If elected to lead this great state, my first order of business after inauguration day will be to determine the earliest possible date for convening a special session of the legislature and call lawmakers to Montgomery to pass my ethics and accountability reforms" Byrne said. "Strong ethical leadership that resonates from the governor's office is vital to every part of state government.
"I'm fully aware there are plenty of status quo politicians and special interests who like the system just the way it is, and will fight me to keep it that way," Byrne added. "But Alabamians deserve a government they can trust. And, to that end, I'll do everything in my power to defeat the politics of the past and move this state forward. I won't back down."
Byrne's High Road to Ethics Reform includes proposals to:
- Require public servants and their family members to disclose to the Ethics Commission all work they are engaged in with any entity that receives public funds, and all income derived from any state or local government entity or institution;
- Extend the ban on "double-dipping" to all levels of state government;
- Eliminate "pass-through pork," once and for all, by writing the ban into law;
- Stop hidden money trails by banning PAC-to-PAC transfers;
- Remove its exemption and mandate that the Legislature follow competitive bid requirements for professional services;
- Provide long-overdue subpoena power to the Alabama Ethics Commission;
- Stop lobbyists' "Pay-to-Play," and require full disclosure of every penny spent on elected officials;
- Require full lobbyist registration and online disclosure;
- Require ethics training for all state and local government employees; and
- Require background checks for all who work in state and local government.