MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Governor Kay Ivey on Friday signed into law House Bill 317, the Alabama Jobs Enhancement Act, sponsored by Representative Ken Johnson, which establishes ethical guidelines for economic development professionals, improves notification requirements for economic development projects and creates new guidelines for the release of previously unavailable economic development project agreements.

Under existing law, Alabama was one of only three states that did not have a codified provision for professional economic developers as it relates to lobbying. The Alabama Jobs Enhancement Act was brought in response to an Alabama Ethics Commission request for the Alabama Legislature to clarify the Alabama Ethics Act in regards to whether economic developers were required to register as lobbyists. The request was aimed to bring about the codification of what had been a longstanding practice, making clear that economic developers are not lobbyists.

“House Bill 317 enables Alabama to remain on a level playing field with other states, as we compete for job creating capital investments. Our ability to attract highly sought economic development projects is vital to ensure that Alabama continues to experience record-low unemployment,” Governor Ivey said. “This legislation makes clear that we are committed to attracting world-class jobs for all Alabamians. I appreciate the work of the entire legislature in passing this bill. I am especially thankful to Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, Senator Phil Williams and Representative Ken Johnson for their leadership in ensuring the strength of our ethics laws, while keeping Alabama’s doors open for business recruitment and new jobs.”

HB 317 Facts:

Transparency & Accountability

  • The Secretary of Commence must be notified “in writing,” about the general parameters of a project if a company is considering locating or expanding in Alabama and intends to claim incentives provided by the State.
  • These notices shall be available for public inspection two years after a company announces their location. Previously, these notices were never made public
  • Any confidentiality agreement the state enters into will also be available for public inspection two years after a company announces their location, unless otherwise determined by the Secretary of Commerce.

Responsibility

  • This Bill states that an “economic development professional” may not lobby the Legislature (or other legislative body) for any new economic development incentives unless they register as a lobbyist, which keeps them subject to all ethics laws applicable to lobbyists.
  • Without registering, they can only discuss with public officials statutory or constitutional economic development incentives that are already available to economic development projects.
  • “Economic development professionals” who choose to lobby for new incentives will therefore be fully subject, as lobbyists, to all ethics laws, including the requirement to register, the ban on giving gifts and other “things of value” to legislators and other public officials, and the requirement to file quarterly disclosures. This is a newly codified registration requirement.
  • Like any other person, “economic development professionals” will continue to be prohibited from giving anything to a public official or public employee (or family member thereof) for the purpose of corruptly influencing official action, whether they are “lobbyists” or not.  Ala. Code § 36-25-7.
  • All “economic development professionals” will continue to be subject to the ethics law requiring quarterly disclosure reports by anyone who provides more than $250/day in meals, lodging, etc., to public officials or public employees.  Ala. Code  36-25-19(b).
  • An “economic development professional” is defined as a person employed to advance specific, good faith economic development or trade promotion projects or related objectives for:
    • (a) his or her employer;
    • (b) a professional services entity (such as a law firm working on an economic development project);
    • (c) a chamber of commerce or similar nonprofit economic development organization in the State of Alabama.
    • The term expressly excludes public officials, public employees, legislators, and former legislators (within two years of the end of their term).
      • Thus the bill does not allow legislators to accept compensation to lobby their legislative colleagues or any executive branch officials on behalf of any individual or entity seeking economic development incentives.

This act has a sunset of one year, with the anticipation that the Legislature’s Ethics Reform and Clarification Committee will rework the Alabama Ethics code during the next legislative session.

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