‘Safe harbor’ bill for economic developers heads to Senate

Bill would exempt economic development professionals from registering as lobbyists

‘Safe harbor’ bill for economic developers heads to Senate

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A bill that would allow economic development professionals to be exempt from registering as lobbyists will head to the Senate.

Under this bill, economic development professionals would not need to register as lobbyists and disclose information that lobbyists need to. Supporters call this a “safe harbor” for developers to conduct their businesses.

“If our economic developers were required to register as lobbyists, this would require that they reveal and disclose whom their clients are and this would compromise confidentiality,” said Rep. Alan Baker, R-Brewton.

Baker is the bill sponsor and said this will help ensure companies consider investing in the state.

“This would compromise that work of trying to attract businesses into our state if that requirement was present,” he said.

Baker said economic development professionals could include city councils, industrial development authorities, local architects and engineers.

Opponents said this provides a hole in the ethics laws for economic development professionals.

Last year a similar bill passed but faced criticism. It created the exemption that would need to be renewed in April. This year, it passed in the House overwhelmingly 94-4 Thursday, but the new bill makes the exemption permanent.

There are other rules and regulations the Alabama Code lists that registered lobbyists need to follow. For example, a lobbyist needs to disclose any financial transaction between public officials and candidates that is more than $500.

The Alabama Ethics Commission also includes a link to the Lobbyist Code of Ethics adopted by the House of Representatives in the 2000 Regular Session.

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