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Lawmakers debate change in ethics law for economic developer

Alabama lawmakers passed a proposed ethics law change that would exempt economic development activity from the rules governing lobbyists.

Posted: Mar 7, 2018 6:43 PM

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama lawmakers passed a proposed ethics law change that would exempt economic development activity from the rules governing lobbyists.

The House of Representatives approved the bill 78-7 after three hours of heated debate on Tuesday. Proponents of the bill said it was necessary for development while its critics argued it rolled back the current ethics law to mitigate corruption.

State Rep. Ken Johnson, a Republican who sponsored the bill, said companies are getting scared away from Alabama at the prospect of having representatives register as lobbyists when seeking economic incentive packages. He said none have had to register yet, but it is a concern.

The bill defines an economic developer as a professional employed part or full time in economic development or trade promotion who would be certified by the state's ethics commission. Public officials could not get paid as lobbyists or be certified as developers. It also allows information about economic deals to remain confidential for five years.

Lobbyists are required to register with the Alabama Ethics Commission and report their activities. Johnson said there were concerns about the gray area between economic development work and lobbying.

Democrats who opposed the bill criticized Johnson's bill as a rollback of the ethics law and potentially a "get out of jail free card" for lawmakers.

"Is this just a backdoor way of reinstating the good old boy system?" asked Rep. A.J. Campbell, a Democrat. "If we said all people needed to register because this is the way it needs to be cleaned up, then why is it changed?"

In 2016, former House Speaker Mike Hubbard was convicted of ethics violations including using his public office to obtain business and promote clients. In 2017, Rep. Oliver Robinson, a Democrat, pleaded guilty to taking a bribe for using his legislative position to oppose the Environmental Protection Agency's prioritization and expansion of a north Birmingham Superfund site.

"You know we've had a history through the years, we've had people convicted of selling their vote," said Rep. Mary Moore, a Democrat from Birmingham. "They've been doing a lot of economic development and getting wealthy too. People are getting extremely wealthy off of packages in this house."

Johnson countered that there was an amendment specifying that lawmakers would not be exempt from the ethics law.

A comprehensive ethics law reform proposed in the Senate was pushed to next session to be potentially handled by an ethics law task force. Some House members suggested considered all the changes together next year, but Johnson said it couldn't wait.

"Do we want to lose jobs this year?" he said.

The bill now moves for consideration in the Senate.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 333180

Reported Deaths: 7502
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22901279
Hinds22780438
Harrison19569326
Rankin14851287
Jackson14342251
Madison10692227
Lee10437179
Jones8746169
Forrest8210157
Lauderdale7561243
Lowndes6790150
Lamar669688
Lafayette6459124
Washington5516139
Pearl River4915149
Bolivar4909134
Oktibbeha478498
Panola4723112
Marshall4654106
Warren4640127
Pontotoc440473
Monroe4255137
Union425379
Neshoba4182180
Lincoln4098115
Hancock405088
Leflore3565125
Pike3530112
Tate349588
Alcorn343974
Sunflower343093
Adams333387
Scott331775
Yazoo331173
Simpson314890
Copiah313867
Itawamba310180
Coahoma308785
Tippah298868
Prentiss292963
Covington282483
Marion279580
Leake278475
Wayne270743
Grenada266388
George261651
Newton256664
Tishomingo236869
Winston235584
Jasper226148
Attala220873
Chickasaw216360
Stone210237
Holmes195674
Clay192254
Clarke182080
Tallahatchie181742
Calhoun177532
Smith175935
Yalobusha169440
Walthall141548
Lawrence137726
Greene135734
Amite132843
Noxubee131635
Perry131038
Montgomery130944
Carroll124531
Webster117532
Jefferson Davis113334
Tunica111127
Benton104625
Claiborne104331
Kemper100729
Humphreys99133
Franklin85923
Quitman83519
Choctaw81319
Wilkinson74632
Jefferson69728
Sharkey51518
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 570667

Reported Deaths: 11483
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson834821584
Mobile45819855
Madison36785532
Tuscaloosa26757465
Shelby26612255
Montgomery25739624
Baldwin23810325
Lee16801181
Calhoun15130332
Morgan14941289
Etowah14662368
Marshall12806235
Houston11515292
Elmore10654217
St. Clair10521251
Limestone10472158
Cullman10257204
Lauderdale9991253
DeKalb9298191
Talladega8739187
Walker7594286
Autauga7419113
Jackson7269117
Blount7184139
Colbert6583142
Coffee6045131
Dale5326117
Russell465842
Chilton4645117
Covington4579125
Franklin444381
Tallapoosa4379157
Escambia420082
Chambers3852125
Dallas3688163
Clarke364462
Marion3380106
Pike324879
Lawrence3192101
Winston291072
Bibb280165
Geneva271583
Marengo258567
Barbour243461
Pickens239162
Butler236172
Hale231878
Fayette224564
Henry205145
Randolph194944
Cherokee193948
Monroe192141
Washington177139
Macon167552
Crenshaw164458
Clay162559
Cleburne159145
Lamar149538
Lowndes144354
Wilcox129231
Bullock125642
Conecuh118130
Coosa116029
Perry109928
Sumter108032
Greene97836
Choctaw63825
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