Alabama's newly toughened ethics law prohibits legislators and other state officials from receiving most free gifts, including football tickets.
But in some cases they can still buy tickets to big games, like this weekend's Alabama-LSU game, at face value. That's an advantage over most state residents since the game between No. 1 and No. 2 has long been sold out, and tickets are being scalped for more than 10 times face value.
Legislators are also able to buy tickets to Alabama or Auburn home games without making donations that other fans are required to make through "Tide Pride" or "Tigers Unlimited."
The executive director of the Alabama Ethics Commission, Jim Sumner, said the new law was written so that public officials must pay the official price for tickets, which is $75 for the Alabama-LSU game. He said it would have been impossible to write it in such a way that it accounted for scalped tickets and for donations to programs like "Tide Pride" and "Tigers Unlimited."
"The law clearly says anything for which they pay full value is allowed," Sumner said.
The director of media relations for the University of Alabama, Cathy Andreen, said legislators are given order forms before the start of the season, allowing them to purchase tickets at face value.
"During the season, university officials will attempt to assist legislators in finding tickets for purchase upon request, although tickets are not always available," Andreen said.
The new law was approved in a special session shortly after Republicans took control of the House and Senate last year. The Senate sponsor of the bill, Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville, said it's much stronger than what was in effect previously, when legislators who requested them could receive tickets to Alabama and Auburn games for free.
Taylor said the law requires all public officials to pay full price for big games and for less popular events where plenty of tickets are available.
He said it would have been difficult for legislators to take into account the quickly changing prices scalpers charge for tickets.
"I think we recognized that the scalpers market for tickets is highly volatile," Taylor said.
A longtime critic of public officials receiving free football tickets, Jim Metrock of Birmingham, said the new law still gives legislators a perk that regular citizens don't receive.
"If you are getting something your next-door neighbor doesn't get then you are using your office for personal gain," Metrock said.
Metrock said most fans can't just fill out an order form and buy tickets to Alabama or Auburn games before the start of the season.
"We'd have to give money for scholarships," said Metrock. "I feel that legislators are violating the spirit of what they passed last year."
The House sponsor of the bill, Rep. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, said when he was working on the bill he didn't think about lawmakers being able to buy tickets that might not be available to everybody.
"I did not intend for it to be that way," McClendon said.
Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, said he thinks it's fair for legislators to buy season tickets at the beginning of the year for face value price.
"At the beginning of the season you don't know what the important game will be," Rogers said.