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Ethics bills get conflated

By TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Don’t expect the economic development and ethics legislation to come to the floor in the Senate Tuesday. That’s what Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh’s, R-Anniston, office told Don Daily & Capitol Journal yesterday.

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House Bill 289 by Rep. Alan Baker, R-Brewton, exempts economic development professionals – including site selectors – from being treated as lobbyists under the state’s Ethics Code. The bill passed 94-4 in the House on April 5 and was on schedule to pass the Senate Thursday, when Marsh abruptly announced that the bill would be carried over to next week.

Earlier that day, Marsh had a contentious interview with Birmingham talk radio host Matt Murphy, who sharply criticized the Legislature’s actions on ethics.

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The interview clearly irritated Marsh, who urged senators to go home over the weekend and explain the ethics bills to their constituents.

“Let the folks know out there… you’ve got all weekend to convince these individuals that this is something that needs to be done for the vitality of our state and economic development,” Marsh said Thursday.

What’s interesting here is that Baker’s economic development carve out is suddenly being lumped together with an unrelated bill from Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range, that would completely revise the Ethics Code. Senate Bill 230 would take away the limits on gift giving to public officials and instead institute strict reporting requirements on all things of value given to them. While well-intended and a novel approach, Albritton’s bill is seen as problematic from many who oppose any idea to allow more gift-giving to lawmakers. His bill was the subject of intense media criticism and was killed in committee Wednesday (though Albritton says it’s not dead yet).

Meanwhile, the one-year ethics “patch” lawmakers made for economic developers in 2018 expired on April 1.

Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield said Baker’s bill is simply codifying what has been the rule in economic development for “decades.”

“I think it’s important to understand that this bill is only embracing what has been an existing economic development transaction and process for decades,” Canfield said. “And at the same time it makes it very clear that legislators, elected officials, and legislators who are in the first two years of departing their office cannot be considered protected under this law.”

I go on the Matt & Aunie show every Monday, and we got into this topic toward the end of our interview, which you can listen to HERE:

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