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Unknown and unbridled by law: Economic developers set to make millions off tax incentives

Bill Britt

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A new law establishing a class of individuals known as economic development professionals opens the door for profit-driven incentives paid with taxpayer funds to vaguely described, unknown agents not registered or held accountable to state law.

There are many reasons to suspect that House Bill 317 is filled with loopholes not yet fully understood by the Legislature that passed it, those responsible for policing it or the public who will supposedly benefit from it and pay for it.

One point that never seemed to enter the discussion was the fact that unlike lobbyists, this new class of economic development professionals can be paid based on a contingent fee.

As enrolled, The Alabama Jobs Enhancement Act carves out a class of economic development professionals that are no longer subject to the Alabama Ethics Act as enacted by the Republican super-majority in 2010, under the leadership of then-Gov. Bob Riley and future felon Mike Hubbard.

Under ALa. Code 36-25-23 (d) and § 36-25-18 (6) working for or being paid on contingency is strictly prohibited.

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§ 36-25-23 (d) No principal or lobbyist shall accept compensation for, or enter into a contract to provide lobbying services which is contingent upon the passage or defeat of any legislative action.

§ 36-25-18 (6) A statement signed by each principal that he or she has read the registration, knows its contents and has authorized the registrant to be a lobbyist on his or her behalf as specified therein, and that no compensation will be paid to the registrant contingent upon passage or defeat of any legislative measure.

“there is an even darker motive afoot here: some site location consultants work on commission; that is, they get paid largely or in part by a percentage of the subsidies they negotiate for the company.”

With its new class distinction, economic development professionals may be hired on a contingency contract, eliminating any risk to a principal or a lobbyist who might hire them.

HB317 allows economic and site developers to be paid based on contingent fee contracts. In other words, the more incentives an economic development professional can obtain from the state, the more money those individuals can make off the state.

According to Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, besides the windfall for companies who receive state taxpayer incentives to relocate a business, “there is an even darker motive afoot here: some site location consultants work on commission; that is, they get paid largely or in part by a percentage of the subsidies they negotiate for the company.” LeRoy’s research shows that a consultant, or what now passes as an economic development professional, can earn as much as 30 percent of a subsidy package.

Also under HB317, the public is denied a right to know who these economic development professionals are or what they are paid for at least two years. However, according to the new stature, this period may be extended at the whim of the secretary of commerce or others.

Not allowing the public to know who is benefiting from the incentives and permitting contingent fee contracts are the two issues that were never at the forefront of discussions on HB317.

Beyond all the secrecy and profit-driven deal making is the ambiguity on precisely who is an economic development professional.

After the bill passage, State Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, took to social media to discuss that very issue, writing, “Well I think you hit the nail on the head when you asked what an economic developer is. That definition is not entirely clear if you ask me.”

“While the lobbyists and special interests were rewarded with a loophole in the ethics law, the super-majorities failed to do their jobs for the people of Alabama.”

Ward, who works in economic development and is head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, should know but freely admits the legislation as passed is unclear.

Republican-dominated state government is being pummeled in the press and on social media. Some State lawmakers who voted for the act are being called out by name, such as Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, but most of the anger, distrust and disappointment is aimed at Gov. Kay Ivey, Attorney General Steve Marshall and Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield. Ivey and Marshall face reelection bids, and their rivals see the passage of HB317 as an opportunity to paint them as weakening the state ethics laws.

Democrat gubernatorial hopeful Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox was first to call out Ivey, and his pointed accusation is continuing with reported media by underscoring the deceptive passage of HB317.

Democrat Mayor Walt Maddox sees what lawmakers and governor can’t

The day after HB317 was sent to Gov. Ivey, Maddox wrote, “Yesterday, the majority of Alabamians went to work with the full expectation of doing their jobs. The same cannot be said about the super-majorities in the legislature which again ended another session failing to address critical needs in education, mental health, health care, corrections, and infrastructure.” In what is becoming an internet meme, Maddox said, “While the lobbyists and special interests were rewarded with a loophole in the ethics law, the super-majorities failed to do their jobs for the people of Alabama.”

In branding HB317 as weakening the state’s ethics laws to favor lobbyists and special interests, Maddox is turning Republican messaging on its head by pointing out the hypocrisy of conservatives who claimed they came to Montgomery to root out Democrat corruption. Ivey, in a recent TV ad, said she had cleaned up the messiness in Montgomery. For now, the passage of  The Alabama Jobs Enhancement Act is a dumpster fire, but it may grow as the state heads into election season which, like HB317, is unknown and unbridled.

 

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Elections

Opinion | Collier’s allegations are not about Ivey’s health — they’re about retaliation

Josh Moon

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It’s not the (alleged) stroke, it’s the coverup.

That was the message from Walt Maddox and his campaign on Thursday, as they took shots at Gov. Kay Ivey for allegedly directing her security detail to cover up a health scare in 2015. She’s also alleged to have demoted a state trooper from her security team after he refused to conceal from his superiors a trip to the hospital Ivey was forced to take while attending a conference in Colorado.

And the story could use a little refocusing.

After APR’s Bill Britt wrote a story Monday that quoted former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency head Spencer Collier confirming the hospital trip for “stroke-like symptoms” and providing details of his conversations with Ivey about demoting the trooper, the story from state media outlets veered off course.

Instead of the focus landing on Ivey’s mistreatment of a law enforcement officer who was simply doing his job correctly, it became all about her health.

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Was she sick? Did she have a stroke? How’s her health these days?

Those are all fair questions.

They’re just not THE question that should have come from Collier’s revelations.

Because if Ivey did what Collier alleges, she possibly broke the law. And maybe, more importantly, she took money out of the pocket of a trooper who was trying to support a family simply because he refused to conceal her trip to the hospital.

That sort of behavior … well, we’ve seen that before in this state.

Mike Hubbard and Robert Bentley both went after law enforcement when they were initially caught in lies and illegalities.

Hubbard tried to defund the entire Alabama Attorney General’s Office and squeeze the prosecutors on his trail. He later launched public attacks against the lead prosecutor, Matt Hart, in a failed attempt to get out from under his misdeeds.

Bentley asked Collier, who was then head of ALEA, to lie to AG’s office investigators. And when Collier, after being terminated by Bentley for refusing to lie, told the world of the then-governor’s affair, Bentley set out to ruin the man.

Both Bentley and Hubbard wound up in jail for brief periods. And Alabamians wound up with more black eyes from the nation’s most corrupt state government.

That’s why this deal with the trooper matters so much.

Because it speaks to the character of Kay Ivey.

I mean, would she really demote this poor guy — the same trooper who sat by her hospital bed for three days — force him to uproot his family and go from the Montgomery area to Houston County, cut his pay and stifle his career because he followed trooper regulations instead of her improper/illegal directives?

Would she?

Because I think that’s something we should know.

Ivey, in response to Maddox’s comments on Thursday, told reporters that they should “check” the facts on the trooper, Drew Brooks.

I’ve done that.

I have copies from his personnel file showing where he lost pay and was sent from the governor’s security detail — a sought-after position — to giving out drivers licenses in Dothan — a very much not-sought-after position.



If Ivey has records indicating these things didn’t happen, I’d love to see them. And I’d also love to see records of her trip to Colorado in 2015.

Because right now, this is looking like a very familiar road.

A candidate who won’t debate. A politician who plays a little loose with the rules and law. A career politician who would do anything to stay in the game. A desperate politician who will stoop to any level to conceal their flaws and errors.

It all rings a bell, doesn’t it?

Mike Hubbard.

Robert Bentley.

Kay Ivey?

 

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Elections

Ivey campaign calls Maddox a lying liberal

Brandon Moseley

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The Kay Ivey campaign pounced after Walt Maddox contradicted himself and Spencer Collier at his news conference in Tuscaloosa.

Spencer Collier is a former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) head appointed by then Governor Robert Bentley (R). Collier thrust himself into the 2018 gubernatorial race by claiming that Ivey lied about an illness over three years ago back when she was Lieutenant Governor and then retaliated against a state trooper assigned to her security detail that allegedly was a source for an Alabama Political Reporter story about the hospital stay.

On Tuesday, Collier told Al.com “he has not been contacted by the campaign of Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox.”

On Wednesday, Maddox told the Associated Press that he was “shocked to learn” about the Collier allegations.

At his press conference on Thursday, Maddox told Al.com reporter that he had actually had a meeting with Spencer Collier several weeks back. Maddox admitted, “Spencer contacted me a few weeks ago and wanted to meet… He told me what he was going to do.”

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This embarrassing episode came on the heels of a Yellowhammer News report that Maddox’s struggling campaign has been bankrolled by far-left billionaire George Soros.

Maddox is running ads claiming that he will never lie.

The Ivey campaign wasted no time in taking advantage of Maddox’s gaffes.

“Apparently Walt Maddox isn’t just a liberal. He’s a lying liberal,” Ivey campaign spokesperson Debbee Hancock wrote in a statement. “The people of Alabama will see this for what it is – a desperate false attack from a shameless politician who will say or do anything to get elected.”

Hancock reiterated that the Governor and her doctor “have repeatedly disputed these lies and provided detailed accounts to back it up. As it relates to the officer, that’s another Maddox whopper. News outlets reported last year that the officer actually received a promotion and raise in late 2015.”

“Walt Maddox is pushing these last second lies because his half baked liberal ideas have him losing in a landslide,” Hancock stated. “With less than three weeks to go, not even $200,000 from George Soros can save him.”

Ivey took more than $100,000 from same Soros-backed PACs as Maddox

Collier was fired as head of ALEA by Bentley after a power struggle with alleged Bentley mistress Rebekah Caldwell Mason. Collier has been suing Bentley ever since. Collier became disenchanted with Ivey; because she has authorized using state funds to pay Bentley’s legal defense to fight Collier’s efforts to get a cash settlement from ex-Gov. Bentley. Collier is presently working as the police chief of Selma.

Walter “Walt” Maddox (D) is the Mayor of Tuscaloosa. He has never run a statewide campaign before and is struggling to find any issue that can cut into Ivey’s enormous 20 point lead in the polls. Maddox has run ads claiming that he is pro-life and pro-gun; but has conflicting statements on those positions. He has said that the Second Amendment has to be limited like the First Amendment. How that would work and what that means for gun owners is unclear. He has also said that he is pro-life; but opposes the pro-life Amendment Two, which is also on the general election ballot.

There are only eighteen days until the general election.

(Original reporting by the Yellowhammer News’ Sean Ross and the Alabama Media Group contributed to this report.)

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Elections

Zeigler: Change from Bentley to Ivey “removed a dark cloud over Montgomery”

Brandon Moseley

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State Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) told the Republican Women of Coffee County the resignation of former Gov. Robert Bentley “removed a dark cloud over Montgomery.”

Zeigler said he could see a real difference when Ivey took over in April 2017 after, “Bentley’s forced resignation.”

“During the two years I served with Gov. Bentley, I was never allowed inside the governor’s offices,” Zeigler said. “Once Kay Ivey took over, I was inside the governor’s offices six times in just the first two months, working with her staff on issues.”

Zeigler clashed frequently with the Bentley Administration even before his term began. Ultimately, Zeigler filed the first ethics complaint against Gov. Robert Bentley in March 2016. 13 months later the Alabama Ethics Commission found probable cause that Bentley was in-deed likely guilty of violation multiple counts of Alabama ethics and campaign finance law. Five days later, the House Judiciary Committee began historic impeachment hearings. On that same day, April 10, 2017, Bentley resigned and Ivey became governor.

As Governor Ivey has focused on: growing the economy. Unemployment has reached record lows and businesses are moving manufacturing to Alabama. The legislature has passed the second largest education budget in history. Kay has focused on increasing computer science classes, pre-K expansion, workforce development, and building new prisons.
Ivey is seeking a second term as governor in the November 6 general election. She faces Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter “Walt” Madox (D).

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While Zeigler had been a consistent critic of Bentley. Zeigler has not filed litigation against the Ivey administration but has been active on other issues, such as diversion of food funds by the outgoing Etowah County Sheriff.

While Ivey has led Maddox in every polls by large margins, Zeigler told the Republican group that some GOP voters “may be too confident. They think we Republicans have it made, so they don’t need to get involved and don’t need to vote. That is the quickest way to lose an election.”

Zeigler is seeking re-election in the Nov. 6 general election. He is opposed by Democratic nominee Miranda Karrine Joseph. This is the third time that Joseph has run for Auditor.

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St. Clair GOP urged to vote yes on Alabama Amendment Two

Brandon Moseley

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Rick Renshaw with the Alliance for a Pro-Life Alabama addressed the St. Clair County Republican Party at a meeting in Moody Thursday. Renshaw urged the gathered Republicans to vote Yes on Amendment two.

Amendment Two is a pro-life amendment that would clarify that nothing in the Alabama Constitution could be interpreted as guaranteeing a right to an abortion.

Renshaw said that the opposition is, “Sitting on $900,000. We have about a $1000. When I say they are going to outspend us a million to one, I mean that literally.”

We are not going to be able to run TV or radio advertising, Renshaw said. The opposition group is calling itself: “Alabama for Healthy Families. Can you be any more deceptive?”

We recently announced three co-chairs for our group, the Alliance for a Pro-Life Alabama: PSC President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh, Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan, and Mary Sue McClurkin. She shepherded a lot of legislation through the House during her four terms.

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We have a statement from the Attorney General supporting Amendment Two, Renshaw said. Any state candidate is welcome to submit a statement supporting Amendment Two.

AG Steve Marshall (R) has been supportive of the pro-life cause.

“When the Democrats controlled the legislature, we were kind of conditioned to vote no on Amendments,” Renshaw said. We need to get over that. Renshaw said that he was good with all four of the statewide Amendments; but particularly Amendment Two.

Renshaw warned that Planned Parenthood and the Amendment Two opposition would use scare tactics and misinformation to defeat Amendment Two.

“They are trying to scare people about the nature of the Amendment.” Renshaw said.

Renshaw told the Alabama Political Reporter that Planned Parenthood PACs in other state are transferring funds to the Alabama for Healthy Families PAC in violation of Alabama’s PAC to PAC transfer ban law.

“Thank you for letting me come up here and speak,” Renshaw told the St. Clair County Republicans.

The Chairman of the St. Clair County Republican Party is Lance Bell.

Chairman Bell said that Sheriff elect Billy Murray (R) did not run for another term as a member of the state Republican Executive Committee because he did not want to appear on the ballot twice. Emory Cox ran for that seat; but he got a job in the White House so had to resign.

The St. Clair County Executive Committee then accepted nominations for the vacancy. Judge Phil Seay (R), a former St. Clair Republican Party Chairman, was selected unanimously to fill that vacancy on the State Republican Executive Committee.

“Thank you very much I really appreciate it,” Judge Seay said.

The Treasurer reported that the St. Clair County Republican Party had over $45,000 in their main checking account. The bass tournament and scholarships accounts are separate from that main account.

Judge Seay made a motion that $10,000 of that be used to pay campaign debts for Judge-elect Bill Cole (R), Judge-elect Richard Minor (R), support the campaign of State Senator Jim McClendon (R), and state house candidate Craig Lipscomb (R). The St. Clair County Repubican Steering Committee would be able to spend up to $10,000 at their discretion.

The motion passed unanimously.

Chairman Bell announced that the Party will have officer elections in February.

St. Clair County School Board Member Bill Morris (R) is heading the St. Clair County for Kay Ivey Campaign.

Morris said that the governor needed donations to her campaign and volunteers to work the polls on election day.

Chairman Bell said that Kay Ivey was leading her Democratic opponent by 20 percentage points in the latest polling but that the biggest concern is that Republicans get complacent and not show up on election day. “Make sure you go vote and bring your friends and family too.”

Judge Robert Minor (R) thanked the party members who contributed to the local charity, Lighten the Load which raises money so that children in the foster care system can have hard sided luggage so that when they have to move to a new location they have something to put their stuff in. “Most of them have to put their stuff in garbage bags,” Judge Robert Minor said. “We raised $6500.”

On November 20, St Clair County will be 200 years old. There will be birthday parties with cake at both the Ashville and Pell City court houses.

The general election will be November 6.

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Unknown and unbridled by law: Economic developers set to make millions off tax incentives

by Bill Britt Read Time: 5 min
0