By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Praising it as a job-recruitment tool, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Friday signed into law a bill that will exempt economic developers from the state ethics law.
Ivey’s office announced that she signed the bill approved by lawmakers this session after sometimes-contentious debate over whether it was a job-recruitment necessity or a gaping new hole in state ethics law.
Economic developers would not be considered lobbyists and would not register with the state and disclose their employers and activity as lobbyists do, under the legislation. Supporters said developers do not currently register, but the law needed to be clarified because of recent questions over whether they should.
Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield, the state’s top job recruiter, had sought the change. Canfield has said professional site developers, who help businesses decide where to locate, would be hesitant to work in Alabama if they must register as lobbyists.
In an interview with The Associated Press this week, Ivey said the law is aimed at ensuring developers feel welcome in the state. She said there had been “misinformation” about the bill.
“If a company is looking at our state or any other state, they don’t want their competition to know what they are doing,” Ivey said.
Critics had argued that anyone seeking deals with the state should not be exempted, and that such exemptions could be exploited.
Rep. Chris England, a Democrat from Tuscaloosa, said the law creates “a loophole large enough to drive an economic development truck through.”
The bill cleared the Alabama Senate by a single vote, after the addition of a provision that the exemption will expire next year unless renewed by lawmakers. It passed by a wider margin in the Alabama House of Representatives.