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Bill to exempt economic developers from registering as lobbyists passes Senate

Sam Mattison

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Economic developers may soon be exempted from registering as lobbyist after a tense day in the Legislature characterized with delay tactics and a narrow Senate vote.

House bill 314, which would exempt economic developers from registering as lobbyist, cleared the Senate on Wednesday, but it took many hours of delay tactics by opposing senators.

Sens. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, and Dick Brewbaker, R-Montgomery, both came to the podium to oppose the bill. Both argued that the bill would essentially divide lobbyist into two classes: those that are regulated and those that are not.

“If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck,” Singleton said of economic developers when compared to lobbyist.

State Sen. Tripp Pittman, R-Montrose, also came out against the bill on the floor. He said he “firmly” believes that economic developers are lobbyist and thus need to register with the Ethics Commission. The retiring senator ended his time at the podium by quoting a passage from the George Orwell’s book “Animal Farm” that dealt with false equality.

“All animal all equal, but some animals are more equal than others,” Pittman said quoting the book.

The bill barely cleared the upper chamber with a 15-14 vote with Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, abstaining from the vote. The full vote is included below:

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Its first time on the Senate floor on Wednesday was characterized with delay tactics that threatened to stop the Senate. It was finally passed at 6:00 p.m. after it first appeared earlier that morning. In total, the Senate adjourned three times without voting on the bill.

Similar delay tactics were implemented on Tuesday as the bill faced opposition from senators around the chamber.

The opposition birthed a substitute bill that eased some of their concerns but still left a lot of senators with reservations about the bill.

From its passage in the Senate, the bill was stalled in the House on Wednesday night after the chamber adjourned.

Proponents of the bill argued that the proposal would lead to companies being more open to setting up shop in Alabama. Opponents point to the plethora of economic deals, like the Toyota-Mazada plant in Huntsville, that have been negotiated without the exemptions in the bill. Many in the opposition camp view the bill as a weakening of the Ethics law in the state.

The Legislature has signaled that the bill would come up for debate next year as the body will consider an ethics bill that was announced earlier this session. They’ve set the economic developers bill to expire in April of next year.

Regardless of the points, the bill is projected to pass the House on Thursday as it was the last bill to be debated in the House before adjournment.

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