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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: 307836

Reported Deaths: 7119
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto20784248
Hinds19894408
Harrison17493302
Rankin13316275
Jackson13099243
Madison9896210
Lee9859169
Jones8293160
Forrest7523146
Lauderdale7189237
Lowndes6265144
Lamar610784
Lafayette6028117
Washington5280132
Bolivar4770129
Oktibbeha455297
Panola4442103
Pearl River4420139
Warren4281118
Marshall4273100
Pontotoc416472
Monroe4057132
Union403775
Neshoba3988176
Lincoln3871108
Hancock372185
Leflore3468124
Sunflower329389
Tate322781
Pike3181104
Scott310572
Yazoo304368
Alcorn297764
Itawamba296876
Copiah293065
Coahoma289677
Simpson287484
Tippah284868
Prentiss275659
Marion265979
Wayne261341
Leake261173
Grenada254982
Covington254580
Adams245982
Newton244859
George237847
Winston225981
Tishomingo222067
Jasper219748
Attala213373
Chickasaw204857
Holmes186471
Clay182454
Stone179131
Clarke176876
Tallahatchie175540
Calhoun163230
Yalobusha158836
Smith158634
Walthall130543
Greene129433
Lawrence126323
Noxubee125933
Montgomery125542
Perry125138
Carroll120826
Amite120141
Webster113432
Jefferson Davis105432
Tunica102525
Claiborne101330
Benton97225
Kemper95226
Humphreys94332
Franklin81923
Quitman78916
Choctaw72817
Jefferson64828
Wilkinson64727
Sharkey49617
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 519071

Reported Deaths: 10712
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson754131487
Mobile37774798
Madison33868494
Tuscaloosa25283443
Montgomery23969565
Shelby23112238
Baldwin20638300
Lee15524165
Calhoun14286311
Morgan14140268
Etowah13664345
Marshall11957219
Houston10383278
Elmore9994200
Limestone9814147
Cullman9475188
St. Clair9429234
Lauderdale9218227
DeKalb8747181
Talladega8060171
Walker7092275
Jackson6755110
Autauga6727103
Blount6488135
Colbert6205130
Coffee5401112
Dale4768110
Russell428938
Franklin419982
Chilton4083109
Covington4053114
Tallapoosa3893146
Escambia388074
Dallas3527149
Chambers3500122
Clarke346360
Marion3066100
Pike305875
Lawrence295395
Winston272372
Bibb256458
Marengo248661
Geneva245875
Pickens232959
Barbour224955
Hale218775
Butler212366
Fayette208960
Henry187844
Cherokee182044
Randolph176941
Monroe171540
Washington164038
Macon154848
Clay149454
Crenshaw149357
Cleburne146041
Lamar139334
Lowndes136453
Wilcox124327
Bullock121340
Conecuh109028
Perry107926
Sumter102932
Coosa99328
Greene90734
Choctaw58724
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