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Senate committee gives favorable report to economic developer bill HB317

Brandon Moseley

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The Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee gave a favorable report to a much-amended version of House Bill 317 after a lengthy discussion.

House Bill 317 is sponsored by state Rep. Ken Johnson, R-Moulton, and is being carried by Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, in the Senate.

The Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee is chaired by state Sen. Phil Williams, R-Rainbow City.

Williams said that Wednesday’s meeting was supposed to have been a public hearing on the bill but since no one had signed up to speak for or against the bill there would be no hearing.

“This bill is of utmost importance and I ask that you will bring it out of committee today,” Marsh said.

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Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, announced, “I have an amendment about transparency.”

Williams said, “I also have an amendment.”

Senator Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, said that he also had some issues with how this bill is written and had some questions about the part time economic developers in the bill.

Johnson said that there are two different definitions of lobbying used in the 2010 ethic legislation that was passed in the 2010 special session on ethics. Johnson said that legislation was written in concert with the then existing Ethics Commission and Director who helped craft that bill.

Other attorneys have different interpretation.

By one opinion going to the Commerce Department and asking for things like economic incentives for things like job training is lobbying.

Johnson said that under this bill those who are full time economic developers would not be lobbyists. They would have an exception to the 2010 Ethics bill. When people lobby the legislature they have to disclose who they are working for. There is a clause in the bill for a less than full time economic developer.

“A small city may hire an attorney to do economic development part time. He may still do some divorces and other cases but it the Ethics Commission pre-qualifies him [as an economic developer],” Johnson said.

Smitherman said that he agreed with the mindset that a small city might hire an attorney to do economic development. “Why would that be lobbying? Why does that person have to jump through some more hoops? This bill ought to allow this.”

Johnson said that the original version of this bill did not make an exception for the part time economic developer. The Attorney General’s Office was concerned about the possibility of possible abuse so we want to clarify through pre-certification.

Smitherman said, “To me this has got to be consistent for the big cities and the little cities. I don’t see anything right about making them jump through all of those hoops. Why should they go through those an extra certification?”

Johnson that this bill has been an ongoing process.

Williams said, “I share quite a few of the same concerns on the bill; though I have warmed up to it.”

Williams said that one of the things that concerned him is that since we are looking at a comprehensive ethics reform bill next year why are we changing this year.

Williams said that his amendment will sunset the ethics portion of the bill on page 5 so that it will sunset those provisions in the next quadrinnium. The legislature will have to pass comprehensive ethics reform or this will sunset if they don’t act.

State Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, questioned why they were sunsetting just two paragraphs on page five of the bill – the definitions of lobbyist and economic developer.

Alabama Law Institute Director Othni Lathram said that was the cleanest way to sunset the bill.

Senator Jim McClendon, R-Springville, asked, “The economic development person for a small town is usually the mayor is he covered by this?”

Johnson said, “No he is dong it in the scope of his office when someone is doing it for pay then he becomes an economic development professional.”

Lathram said that elected officials are allowed to ask for incentives as part of their office. A city councilman or a legislator is a parti-time office holder and has another job that he does. That other job can’t be economic developer.

“The bill says that you can’t wear both of these two hats,” Lathram said. “There is not restriction in your ability to work on behald of your districts.”

“The bill clearly protects the people who are full time (economic developers),” Lathram said. “Seeking these incentives is not lobbying it is economic development.”

The original bill was based on conduct but law enforcement did not like that. Full time employees of a local chamber of commerce would be covered as economic developers.

McClendon said, “The full time part is easy to get; but the less than full time part of the bill is one of the most confusing things I have ever read.”

“Senator it is complicated,” Lathram said. “The bill hits the right balance. You can’t be a lobbyist with your daytime job, you can’t be an elected official with your full time job, you can’t be a public employee with your full time job,” and then be a part time economic developer.

Smitherman said, “To me that is not necessary to take care of the concern because it is already laid out there. My concern is that that part time person should be treated the same as that full time person.”

Lathram answered, “Bills like these are highly negotiated.”

Smitherman responded, “Let me stop you right there that is because they don’t bring all of us to the table. This is my first time to get a good look at this.”

Lathram said, “Senator based on your comments you would have liked the first version of the bill. The prosecutors fear is that when they are after bad actors people are charged with lobbying they will say I was not a lobbyist I am an economic developer.”

Williams sunset amendment passed 11-0-1 with Senator Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, abstaining.

Pittman said that his amendment addresses an issue of transparency. This provides that the incentives that are taken advantage of by a company be reported. When the company claims these credits they will report it to the commerce department so we will have a record of what they actually cost.

Williams said, “As I read it these incentives would be after they were offered.”

Pittman’s amendment was adopted on an 11-0-1 vote.

Johnson said that he was willing to work with Smitherman, but that Senate sponsor (Marsh) would also be involved,

The Committee gave a favorable report to HB317 on a 10-2-1 vote.

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Hubbard lawyer says Gov. Ivey has a job for him

Bill Britt

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Defense attorney Lance Bell starts closing arguments in Alabama Speaker Mike Hubbard trial on Thursday, June 9, 2016 in Opelika, Ala. Todd J. Van Emst/Opelika-Auburn News/Pool

An attorney for former Speaker and convicted felon Mike Hubbard is pushing for Gov. Kay Ivey to appoint him St. Clair County District Attorney, and he is telling people that Hubbard’s good friend and Ivey donor, businessman Jimmy Rane, is going to make it happen.

Lance Bell is a small-town lawyer based in Pell City located in St. Clair County. Bell gained statewide notoriety as one of Hubbard’s criminal defense attorneys. He wasn’t hired for his legal acumen, but because he was mentored in his early career by Van Davis, the acting Attorney General overseeing the Hubbard prosecution, according to those close to his hiring.

In the recent Republican primary, current St. Clair County DA Richard Minor won the nomination for the Criminal Court of Appeals. Minor faces no Democrat competition so undoubtedly he will be elevated to the court in January, leaving a vacancy in the county DA’s office.

Bell is not supported by the majority of Republicans in St. Clair or the county’s judiciary said at least four St. Clair insiders, even though he is ALGOP county chair. However, Bell is saying that because of his relationship with Rane, that he will be chosen because Rane is best friends with Gov. Ivey.

Rane is one of Ivey’s biggest supporters, giving her at least $300,000 in campaign contributions and lending her his airplane to barnstorm the state before the Republican Primary in June.

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According to lawyers who ask to speak on background, Bell engaged in some activities on Hubbard’s behalf that should result in a bar complaint.

As reported by APR‘s Josh Moon, during six hours of testimony in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Spencer Collier, disgraced former Gov. Robert Bentley admitted that Bell and Augusta Dowd, another Hubbard lawyer, contacted him about appointing a special prosecutor to investigate prosecutor Matt Hart and acting AG Davis. Attorneys familiar with Bar rules say this is a problem that should land Bell and Dowd in big trouble.

Deposition: Bentley was pressured by lawmakers, attorneys, major donors to upend Hubbard trial

But this is not Bell’s only problem according to the layer APR spoke with about the matter.

Also during the Hubbard trial, it was Bell who contacted ALEA to arrange for attorney and radio host Baron Coleman to issue a complaint accusing Hart of leaking grand jury information. Bell’s actions are recounted in an affidavit by Hall Taylor current ALEA Secretary.

Twice, according to attorneys familiar with the process, Bell used suspect tactics to try and derail Hubbard’s prosecution, and twice, Bell lacked candor before the court, according to two of his peers.

Rane is a powerful millionaire who is dominant in Republican politics, and it is not unusual for him to lavish hundreds of thousands of dollars on high profile candidates like Hubbard and Ivey. Most recently, PACs loaded with Rane’s cash flooded the campaign of appointed Attorney General Steve Marshall who will race Democrat Joesph Siegelman in the fall.

That Bell is spreading the word that Ivey’s got his back was not verified by the governor’s office.

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Ivey announces Carpenter Technology Corporation plans for Alabama Emerging Technology Center

Brandon Moseley

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(ADAM BRASHER/THE AUBURN PLAINSMAN)

Monday Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) joined executives of Philadelphia-based Carpenter Technology Corporation at the Farnborough International Airshow to announce plans for adding an Emerging Technology Center at its campus in Limestone County in northern Alabama.

“Carpenter’s decision to locate this facility at its existing Athens site reflects the company’s confidence in its Alabama operation and the workforce there,” Governor Kay Ivey said. “I know that the discoveries made at this center will power many advances in high-tech manufacturing for Carpenter.”

The facility will initially focus on additive manufacturing (AM) technology development, with future investments slated for soft magnetics and meltless titanium powder. Carpenter is promising to invest $52 million in the Emerging Technology Center, which is vital to accelerate the company’s key growth initiatives and is aligned with its business strategy of becoming an end-to-end solutions provider in the AM area. The project is expected to create an estimated 60 jobs over the next five years.

Governor Ivey and Carpenter officials announced the project during a ceremony at the Alabama Department of Commerce’s “Made in Alabama” booth at the Farnborough Airshow, the aerospace industry’s premier 2018 trade show.

Stephen Peskosky, Carpenter’s Vice President of Corporate Development, stressed the significance of Carpenter’s expanded operations in Alabama. “Our relationship with the state of Alabama has flourished since we selected Limestone County for our forging facility in 2011. With the addition of the Emerging Technology Center, our Athens, AL location continues to be a key location in supporting many of the key markets we serve.”

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Carpenter’s 500,000-square-foot Alabama manufacturing facility began operations in 2014. The facility produces high-end specialty alloy products, primarily for the aerospace and energy markets. It later expanded the Athens site to produce superalloy powders used in applications including jet engine disks and 3-D printed aircraft engine components and other products.

Economic Developer Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter, “Additive manufacturing, also known as 3-D printing, refers to the process of building parts through the combination of material, layer-by-layer, from a CAD file. The Emerging Technology Center will allow Carpenter employees to conduct research and development of new alloys and 3-D printed parts that will primarily be utilized within aerospace and energy markets.”

Nicole Jones added, “Carpenter’s addition to its already-existing 500,000 square foot facility in Athens (Limestone County) is a testament to north Alabama’s rich technological history and demonstrates confidence in our state’s workforce. Thank you, Carpenter Technology Corporation, for your continued investment in Alabama.”

“We are excited that Carpenter Technology has once again decided to expand their presence in Limestone County,” County Commissioner Mark Yarbrough said. “They have been, and will continue to be an outstanding community partner.”

The company has invested $575 million in its Alabama operations.

“This new facility is vitally important to the growth of Carpenter’s AM industrialization,” said Alabama Department of Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield, “It not only complements the company’s ongoing AM investments and recent acquisitions in this evolving space, but it also creates high-paying jobs in Alabama while also expanding the capabilities of the state’s already robust aerospace industry.”

Carpenter Technology Corporation (NYSE: CRS) is a recognized leader in high-performance specialty alloy-based materials and process solutions for critical applications in the aerospace, defense, transportation, energy, industrial, medical, and consumer electronics markets. Carpenter was founded in 1889 and has evolved to become a pioneer in premium specialty alloys, including titanium, nickel, and cobalt, as well as alloys specifically engineered for AM processes and soft magnetics applications. Carpenter has expanded its AM capabilities to provide a complete “end-to-end” solution to accelerate materials innovation and streamline parts production.

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Jones testifies before International Trade Commission on negative impact of newsprint tariffs

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) testified at a hearing held by the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) on the negative impacts recently imposed newsprint tariffs have had on Alabama’s newspapers.

Jones has advocated to stop to these tariffs, which are already hurting newspapers. In April, Jones wrote a letter to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross calling for an end to the newsprint tariff. He has cosponsored bipartisan legislation to suspend the tariffs while the Commerce Department examines the impacts of the tariffs on the printing and publishing industry.

“This issue first came to my attention back in March, when Bo Bolton, publisher of the Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Alabama—home of Harper Lee—traveled all the way to Washington D.C. to meet with me and my team,” Sen. Jones testified. “Bo’s message was urgent and clear: newly implemented tariffs by the Department of Commerce threatened the livelihood of his small-town newspaper, and thousands of other small, community papers that serve as the lifeblood of their communities throughout this country.”

“I have had a regular stream of publishers visit with me sharing the exact same message, asking for any relief possible before they would have to start cutting their services and laying off what few staff they might have,” Jones continued. “The sources for domestically produced newsprint are quite scarce, requiring newspapers around the country to purchase their newsprint from Canadian suppliers. In other words, the domestic jobs that would be protected by these tariffs is relatively minuscule compared to the number of jobs in the United States that these tariffs threaten. But one domestic producer, NORPAC, which is owned by a New York hedge fund, filed a complaint with the Department of Commerce alleging Canadian newspaper suppliers were being subsidized by their government and thus able to sell below market value. As I understand is common practice, the Commerce Department levied preliminary tariffs of 6.53 percent in January. That jumped to an average of 22 percent in March, when the Canadian producer was found to be [selling] below the market price.”

“Here’s what I just don’t understand: why would this Administration levy these outrageous tariffs when our own newspaper publishers, logging industry, and paper suppliers do not support the decision?” Jones continued. It seems to me that the only thing being protected by this tariff is a small portion of a Wall Street hedge fund’s portfolio. It certainly isn’t protecting the 600,000 printing and publishing jobs across the country, including jobs at every newspaper in the state of Alabama.”

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“The Decatur Daily is facing an increase of $450,000 over their 2017 costs, and they’ve eliminated 11 full-time positions already,” Jones said. “Aside from payroll, newsprint is their single largest expense. You’ll hear that refrain from many small papers. Samuel Martin, publisher of the Birmingham Times in Birmingham, Alabama, wrote to me saying that they are, “hanging on by our fingertips already to survive and things like these tariffs will be the difference on surviving for so many.””

Most newspapers and journals are in the process of migrating to the internet. The Alabama Political Reporter does not have an old fashioned print version so uses no newsprint whatsoever.

“While some big-named media outlets have found their footing in the digital age, that’s not the case for everyone,” Jones said. “For many in small towns in Alabama and across the country, folks still like to get their news from actual newspapers. They still like to read a paper front to back. Hold it in hand. They cut the coupons. They read the local events calendar. They learn about what their local officials are doing or, in some cases, not doing. Frankly, there are still far too many places where Americans still struggle to get access to broadband. These folks don’t have the option to go online to get their news. The digital model just doesn’t work there, at least not yet.”

“These small newspapers cover local news that wouldn’t make it into larger regional papers if they were to shut their doors. Local businesses lose perhaps their only outlet in which to reach their customers,” Sen. Jones testified. “The biggest losers in this fight ultimately will be the residents that rely on local newspapers to stay informed. So when I say that these papers are the lifeblood of communities, it is not an exaggeration. It’s a fact. That’s why I have been so deeply concerned about this tariff. If it’s not rolled back, it will present and existential threat to local newspapers that are already strapped. “

“It is why I left duties on Capitol Hill this afternoon to come here today to urge you to reconsider this tariff,” Jones said. “Instead, consider the significant impact it has already had on these small American businesses. I hope you take to heart the urgent calls you are hearing today and make the right decision to eliminate these tariffs and to protect this industry and valuable the service that it provides to all of us.”

Forbes Media Chairman Steve Forbes wrote in The Wall Street Journal that “Since March a tariff of up to 30 percent on Canadian uncoated paper has raised the price of newsprint, making it difficult for cash-strapped newspapers to circulate their work. As if limiting economic freedom weren’t enough, the administration is also undermining Americans’ freedom of expression with this needless tax on journalism.”

North Pacific Paper Company plans to hire 50 new full- and part-time employees, the company announced May 2. The company, owned by the New York hedge fund One Rock Capital Partners, also announced the limited restart of operations for one of its paper machines, idled this past year.

The Longview, Washington-based company attributed the moves to “the U.S. uncoated groundwood papers industry starting to see a level playing field against unfairly traded imports.”

On May 2 North Pacific Paper Company (Norpac) which filed the trade complaint last fall has hired 50 more employees and is reopening a third machine at their Longview, Washington facility which they had shut down last year.

“After years of unfair, demoralizing market conditions and the associated difficult decisions that were required to survive, we have worked with our employees to test and create a system that can respond rapidly to the dynamic needs of the customers we serve. As more clarity regarding the impacts of competing on a level playing field become clear we will further improve our organizational capability,” said CEO Craig Anneberg in a news release.

Doug Jones was elected to the Senate in a special election on December 12.

(Original reporting by newsandtech.com contributed to this report.)

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Senate committee gives favorable report to economic developer bill HB317

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 5 min
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