Ethics debate in Senate brings back heated education argument - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Ethics debate in Senate brings back heated education argument

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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey says you can't compare Tuesday's night debate over the relevance of an amendment to an ethics bill to last year's heated debate over the Alabama Accountability Act.

"Don't mix eggs and apples, apples and oranges." Ivey said.

Ivey presides over the Alabama Senate and has control over debate and the overall movement of legislation on a daily basis.

"His amendment didn't even address what Sen. Marsh's original bill addressed." Ivey said.

Sen. Hank Sanders proposed a wide-ranging amendment to a bill that, if it became law, would ban former lawmakers from lobbying the Alabama legislature for a period of two years, immediately following their service. Sen. Del Marsh, the President Pro Tem of the Senate, said that he wants to end what he calls the "revolving door" from the legislature to lobbying.

Sanders' amendment went much further than Marsh's bill. It included new lobbying limits for family members of the governor, limits on state contracts for family members of all elected officials, and even new restrictions on elected officials' ability to purchase high demand football tickets for face value, a perk that the general public doesn't enjoy.

Ivey ruled that amendment to be too far outside of the scope of Sen. Marsh's bill.

"While it was all going on there was a moment of a flashback of déjà vu, oh, my God this is happening again." said Sen. Vivian Figures, the top ranking Democrat in the Senate.

For several minutes, Ivey's decision sparked shouting and disorganization in the Alabama Senate. Her ruling was later not upheld by the entire Senate and the bill eventually passed 33-0 with the amendment tacked on.

Figures' déjà vu refers to the drama and anger the ensued after Senate Republicans returned the chamber on Feb. 28, 2013 with a new version of a school flexibility measure that most members had never seen before. The original version of the bill featured waivers for schools to opt out of some state education regulations, but the new version, known as the Alabama Accountability Act, included millions in tax credits, school transfers, and a scholarship program for children to attend private schools.

Democrats yelled and screamed that Republicans were attempting to rush it through. However, the Senate record doesn't show that a ruling of the chair on the germaneness of the bill was ever requested by Democrats.

"They never asked for one." Lt. Gov. Ivey said.

Ivey also said that even with all of the screaming that went on that night, it isn't likely that she just didn't hear it amidst the screams of Democrats.

Tuesday night clearly erupted as the most heated night of the legislative session. Sen. Figures says she doesn't want to view it that way.

"I want to look at it as glass half full, not glass half empty," Figures said. "I'm disappointed in the actions of the Pro Tem and the Lieutenant Governor but I really want to move forward from this."

Copyright 2014 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.

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