By Quin Hillyer, a Mobile-based Contributing Editor for National Review Online. His new novel, Mad Jones, Hereticis available now at

Don’t believe the dire predictions about the “cliffs of corruption” supposedly evident in Alabama’s “worst bill of the 2018 legislative session.”

By the time HB 317, the controversial bill exempting “economic development professionals” from registering as lobbyists, was signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey, it had been amended into a temporary, reasonable attempt to fix a real problem.

Nonetheless, to read most of the media coverage, and to listen to some claims in gubernatorial debates, this new law is designed to give “fat cats a pathway around the ethics law.” But that’s sheer hysteria.

Here’s the truth.

There are indeed people known as “economic development professionals” who work for companies deciding where to locate new outlets or build new factories. They come from out of state, and they bring jobs.

They visit with local officials to examine the benefits and drawbacks of moving into Alabama. They visit other states and do the same. Sure, they might ask for tax abatements or other “incentives” for their companies, but it’s part of a broader package of plusses and minuses – and rather than them being the ones with hat in hand to Alabama, our state is competing against other states, hat in hand, for the developers’ approval.

The goal on the developers’ side is profits; on our side, it’s jobs. And, to be clear, the developers are not “lobbying” in the commonly understood sense of the term.

Unlike most states, Alabama features ethics laws that require these outsiders to register as “lobbyists.” The burdens of such registration are significant, and a deterrent to even considering Alabama.

In the December 2015 edition of the trade journal IPT Insider (Institute of Professionals in Taxation) Insider, located in Atlanta, a Michigan insurer for construction projects named Gregory Burkart wrote that Alabama’s strict law makes it unpleasant for companies even to talk to Alabama officials….

[The full column, including key and surprising details, is here.]


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