Legislative Report – April 12, 2019

Volume 20 Number 3 – April 12, 2019

8th & 9th legislative days

Ethics Bill Stalls in Committee

The Senate Judiciary Committee discussed but did not take action on SB 230, which would overhaul the state’s ethics law.

The bill would make changes to the current ethics law, including eliminating an existing ban on gifts and instead requiring lobbyists to report everything they give.

The Ethics Commission Executive Director and Attorney General oppose the bill because they say it will encourage corruption.

Sen. Greg Albritton (R – Range), the sponsor of the bill, said his purpose is to clarify the law, not weaken it. He said his bill would make punishments proportional to the seriousness of crimes and define what he said are now overlapping and sometimes conflicting authorities of state agencies.

Sen. Cam Ward (R – Alabaster), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, moved to carry the bill over and said he does not expect it to come back this session.

Opposition Growing to Bill to Prohibit Local Governments’ Authority

SB 244 and HB 346 would preempt cities from regulating so-called “auxiliary containers.” This includes all single-use containers such as plastic bags and Styrofoam cups.

Both bills were approved in their respective committees this week, but opposition is growing. Coastal communities such as Mobile, Fairhope, Daphne, Gulf Shores, and Orange Beach are already sounding the alarm and more cities are expected to join.

The ability of municipalities to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their local citizens and determine how to best protect the economic viability of their local community is a key and core function of local government.

The extreme overreach of preemption bills like these fail to account for the diverse local needs, interests, and concerns that make a community unique and could potentially result in negative economic impacts within a community.

Economic Developer Bill Approved in Senate Committee

HB 289, which clarifies that economic developers do not have to register as lobbyists, was approved by the Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee on Tuesday, but did not come to the Senate floor this week.

Sen. Del Marsh (R – Anniston) slowed down the bill after receiving criticism that he is trying to weaken the state’s ethics laws. Sen. Marsh encouraged senators to explain the bill to critics. He said “I’m tired of this legislature being attacked every time an ethics bill comes up. We’re trying to do our job.”

A similar bill was signed into law last year, but it expired on April 1. Economic developers and site selectors are concerned that being required to register as lobbyists and disclose potential projects will negatively impact Alabama’s ability to recruit new industry.

Upcoming Legislative Schedule

The House and Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, April 16, 2019, at 1:00 and 3:00 p.m., respectively.