Birmingham News – Attorneys for Siegelman, Scrushy want Justice Department to appoint special counsel to investigate claims that witness notes were withheld from defense.
Birmingham News – The Birmingham News comments on claims by Rep. Todd Greeson (R-Ider) that federal prosecutors have turned their attention to him in an effort to show that postsecondary probe is not a partisan issue.
Birmingham News – The Birmingham News doubts whether the Legislature will accomplish any substantive ethics reform.
Mobile Press-Register – Some legislators give bill to convene constitutional convention has little chance of passage.
Mobile Press-Register – Bill to reform state’s homeowners insurance plans set for public hearing this week.
Huntsville Times – Equipment failure at Huntsville television station during “60 Minutes” story on Siegelman causes controversy.
Huntsville Times – The Huntsville Times sees proposal to establish a permanent commission as an appropriate step to address state’s long-standing problem of poverty.
Montgomery Advertiser – Former GOP chair Twinkle Cavanaugh announces candidacy for PSC.
Decatur Daily – Chancellor says he’s making progress resolving problems at state’s postsecondary college system.
Times-Journal – President of Athens State confirms that records relating to Rep. Todd Greeson have been submitted to federal authorities in response to subpoena.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution – Huntsville looks to Atlanta to recruit workers.
Birmingham Business Journal – State home sales down 20% in January.
Tuscaloosa News – The Tuscaloosa News says that reports that Alabama leads the nation in amount spent on judicial races shows things “are out of kilter.”
FROM TODAY’S ANNISTON STAR:
Legislative logjam forms early this session
Star Capitol Correspondent
MONTGOMERY — The Legislature begins its eighth day of lawmaking today, and the work already is backing up in the Senate.
More than one quarter of the way into its 2008 regular session, the House has passed 68 bills, 52 of which are general bills that the Senate has yet to touch because of an early slowdown on a PAC-to-PAC transfer bill and one Democratic senator’s vow of vengeance against his Republican foes.
The Senate has passed just 11 bills, counting one local House bill that establishes a development commission in Franklin County.
Northeast Alabama legislators say things could flip-flop in the coming days, with a possible slowdown in the House while the Senate moves on to less controversial topics.
Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, has been among Republicans trying to stop a Senate bill intended to ban PAC-to-PAC transfers. Marsh said the bill fails to solve the problem it is intended to address.
“I don’t want the general public to think we’re solving this problem when we’re not with this bill,” Marsh said. “We’re just shifting the money to another spot at the end of the day.”
In 2006, both parties committed to ending the practice of PAC-to-PAC transfers, in which a political action committee (PAC) sends money it has received to one or more other PACs before it finally is distributed to candidates.
Such transfers tend to conceal the source of a candidate’s support.
The Senate bill as currently written would ban PAC-to-PAC transfers, but would exempt political parties and legislative caucuses from the definition of a PAC. They currently are considered PACs.
Marsh said legislative caucuses are “an unrestricted entity that does not have to have full disclosure and can hide money.”
If such caucuses were exempted, a PAC could transfer money to a caucus, which then could mingle that money with other PAC money and individual donations before distributing it to candidates.
“Anyone can start a caucus,” Marsh said.
Marsh said he believes the Senate eventually will pass a PAC-to-PAC-transfer ban, but it will be much weaker and without many Republican supporters.
Marsh also said he hopes today’s Senate calendar will be filled with non-controversial bills — specifically bills not sponsored by Sen. Phil Poole, D-Tuscaloosa.
Poole has vowed to kill bills as payback to Republican legislators who in the last session nixed an appropriation that would have expanded a road in his district.
“I think it would be a mistake to bring out any bill with Sen. Phil Poole’s name on it, because it’ll just shut things down,” Marsh said.
Sen. Kim Benefield, D-Woodland, said Alabamians deserve better than what has happened so far in the legislative session.
“There are a lot of good, worthwhile things to be done, such as the removal of the state income tax from the federal rebates,” Benefield said. “When we have filibusters, they hold up good legislation.”
Rep. Barbara Boyd, D-Anniston, said at least one local issue that’s coming to the Senate soon is important to Anniston school children.
Her bill to appropriate some of the proceeds of an existing school tax to a local scholarship fund passed the House last week, and she said if senators will back it, the bill will have a shot.
Two local House members say the House might be headed for its own slowdown if their bills don’t get their day on the floor for debate.
Representatives Lea Fite, D-Jacksonville, and Randy Wood, R-Anniston, both are sponsoring bills that could increase felony penalties, ruffling the feathers of some fellow House members in the process.
Fite’s bill would increase the penalty for writing a check against a closed account. Wood’s bill would use the cost of repairing damage caused by copper theft as a factor to increase the penalty for the crime.
Fite said he’s prepared to slow the bills of fellow Democrats if they keep his bill and Wood’s from the floor.
Wood said much of the opposition that he and Fite have seen are from legislators who represent mostly black districts.
To his knowledge, Wood said, more whites than blacks would be affected by his legislation, because copper theft is closely linked to meth use.
“We want something done to these folks, whether they’re black or white,” he said.
In addition to the copper legislation, Wood is sponsoring a bill that would establish a state dam inventory, and he’s concerned it will get hung up in the Senate.
“It’s just the way a certain senator or two started off this year,” he said.
“I don’t see them working together this time, and I see that as a problem.”