Kay Ivey just Signed a Bill into Law that Should Concern all of us
Last night, Governor Ivey signed House Bill 317 into law. It's called the Alabama Jobs Enhancement Act. Like most legislation, the name tells a different story than the content.
The talking points repeated by Governor Ivey from the special interests that are funding her campaign would have you believe that the law is a must-have for job creation in Alabama. While discussion must be had, even relating the the specifics of this law, House Bill 317 was surrounded by big red questions marks and a stench of backroom politics at every turn and we seem to be doing just fine recruiting industries.
What does the law do?
The Act carves out a convoluted exemption in the state's definition of a "lobbyist" for full-time economic development professionals—this means that they don't have to report like regular lobbyists do. The given example? Site selectors. However, on the senate floor, one senator suggested an amendment to clarify an exemption specifically for "site selectors" and the bill's proponents weren't happy with that.
In addition to this exemption, the law gives the State Industrial Development Authority the ability to issue up to one hundred-million dollars in bonds to be used for a broad range of economic development-related projects. Any contracts they enter are now protected by a two-year confidentiality agreement.
As bad as this sounds, the original legislation was a monster on steroids before amendments from the Attorney General's office and the Press Association who scrambled to make a terrible bill a little better.
Questionable at best.
The legislation raises questions—every bit about it: the way it was rammed through the legislature, the language itself, the major proponents, etc.
Why was there an eleventh-hour rush to fast-track this legislation through both chambers?
Why did we fast-track legislation dealing with ethics when a comprehensive revamp of our ethics laws was scheduled by leadership for 2019?
Why are we claiming that this legislation is a must-have for economic development when weekly headlines feature new businesses flocking to our state?
Why are we allowing a new pocket of economic development professionals to enter contingency contracts?
Why was there a 15-14 division in the Senate and 22 absentions in the House on such a critical issue?
Why is there an automatic one-year expiration on this bill if it strengthens our ethics laws and creates jobs?
I've said time and time again, "When there's a question, there's no question." This law is questionable at best, and at worst—disastrous—with political insiders using our dollars to select economic winners and losers who aren't registered as lobbyists behind closed doors.
Bring on the economic development—and the highest ethical standards!
Proponents of the measure want us to believe that we must support these changes or either oppose economic development. No! It's not an either/or situation, it's both/and. I believe that we can endlessly develop our economy even as we establish and maintain the highest of ethical standards in Montgomery.
Building and maintaining trust is key to good business and good government and that's what I intend to do as the next Governor of Alabama.