Opinion | Is HB317 a return to the orgy of greed and corruption? 

February 6, 2018

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

At least it seemed for a moment that the cancer eating away at Alabama’s state government was in remission.

The rise of Gov. Kay Ivey and Speaker Mac McCutcheon after the removal of Gov. Robert Bentley and Speaker Mike Hubbard appeared to herald a new day in state politics. But in the State House, bills are offered that would reintroduce the same type of mischief that poisoned the system when Hubbard and Bentley were in office.

As APR reported weeks ago, a prime example of the state’s return to the bad ol’ days is HB317, which, under the guise of economic development, would allow legislators or other public officials to use their influence to promote the awarding of economic development incentives, “by grant or contract or otherwise.” In other words, HB317 would change the definition of lobbyist and lobbying, opening the floodgates for public officials to use their office for personal gain under the auspices of economic development.

Under guise of economic development, legislation would open door for public officials to lobby government

Sponsored in the House by Rep. Ken Johnson, R-Moulton, HB317 is, in reality, the brainchild of Ivey’s Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield, who it is believed borrowed at least some of the bill’s languages from attorney Greg Butrus, a prime mover behind changing the state’s current ethics laws. The legislation is being considered in the House Committee on Tourism and Economic Development, led by Rep. Allen Harper, R-Northport. Harper, a former Democrat, turned Republican after the 2010 Republican takeover and stood on a stage in Lee County with Hubbard after he was indicted on 23 counts of public corruption, wearing an “I like Mike” sticker on his lapel.

There is a promised amendment, which will supposedly clarify that the legislation doesn’t mean lawmakers and public officials can lobby under the new statute — but don’t believe it.

The greater concern is where are Gov. Ivey and Speaker McCutcheon? Do they not understand or care about the bills being championed by their people? Are they so fooled or out of touch as to not see the clever misdirection inherent in HB317?

Hubbard was convicted on two felony counts of using his office to lobby the executive branch on behalf of a company owned by Bobby Abrams, a New York businessman who paid Hubbard $10,000 a month for economic development. And who did Hubbard lobby? Secretary Canfield.

At Canfield’s urging, ADIT awarded Abrams’ company with around 20 million dollars in workforce training. From Hubbard to Canfield to ADIT, millions were handed out to Abrams’ company under the guise of economic development. HB317 will legalize the same actions Hubbard took to serve his paying client while acting as Speaker of the House.

Recently, APR reached out to Ivey and McCutcheon’s offices with no substantial response to date.

Why does the state once again find itself courting more scandals?

Just two weeks ago, Canfield was called in front of a Montgomery grand jury to answer questions about another economic development deal that may land more Republicans in front of a judge and jury.

How long before this latest scandal lands on Gov. Ivey’s doorstep or that of the Speaker?

And where is the State’s Attorney General Steve Marshall? Is he hiding behind his fat donors?

The taint of Hubbard still reeks in the people’s house, where the cancer he spread has returned. And over at the Capitol, the vestiges of Bentley’s failed governorship are left in place to its new occupant’s detriment.

Both Ivey and McCutcheon have proven to be strong and ethical leaders, it is now time that they take action to assure the public that the orgy of greed and corruption indulged under Hubbard is banished before it, once again, leads to a public pox on the body politic.

 

Opinion | Is HB317 a return to the orgy of greed and corruption? 

by Bill Britt Read Time: 3 min
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