Lobbyists come to Montgomery for mandatory ethics training

Posted by Max Reiss – bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) – The Alabama Ethics Commission held its first mandatory training session for all of the state's lobbyists Monday.

"They need to understand that the way they conducted business in the past will not be acceptable anymore," said Jim Sumner, Executive Director of the Alabama Ethics Commission who helped lead the session.

The training session was one of the products of the Special Session of the Alabama Legislature that mat in December at the urging of then-Governor Bob Riley.

Lobbyists used to be able to spend more than $250 per day on any lawmaker but new laws passed by the Republican controlled State House put an end to that.

"You won't see lobbyists do business the way they used to. No more lavish golf or hunting trips" Sumner said. "Now you're going to see them do business in a more traditional way of sitting down to discuss a piece of legislation."

George Clay, a former lawmaker and now a lobbyist says the new laws are confusing and very conflicting.

"Seemingly there are conflicts in the law. A lot of things that have not been considered and it seems to me that it's only safer for lobbyists not to spend any money at all."

Bruce Ely, a Birmingham-based tax-lawyer who also lobbies during the session echoed Clay's sentiment, "I will certainly contact legislators regarding our interest in a particular bill but I'll be very careful not to even buy them a cup of coffee during that conversation."

Ely also said the new ethics laws were passed very quickly by the legislature and he would have liked for lawmakers to have heard more input.

But Dr. Paul Hubbert, the Executive Secretary of the Alabama Education said the new laws don't have a huge impact on his interests like it does others.

"We don't do a lot of the fancy entertaining and hospitality" Hubbert said. "We do most of our work during the day when they're there. We don't go out a lot and entertain."

Each of Alabama's 650 or so lobbyists is required to attend one of the three sessions on ethics training. About 250 lobbyists attended Monday's at the Gordon Persons Building in Montgomery.

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