Tags: Marijuana Legalization | Federal Lawsuit | Challenges | Alabama Law | Ethics | Lobbyists

Lawsuit Challenges Alabama Law Requiring Ethics Training for Lobbyists

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By    |   Wednesday, 31 Aug 2016 12:58 PM

The Institute for Justice announced in a press release it has filed a lawsuit challenging an Alabama law that requires all registered lobbyists to attend an ethics class in Montgomery, which is offered four times a year.

The case is filed on behalf of Maggie Ellinger-Locke, legislative counsel at the nonprofit Marijuana Policy Project, which monitors legislation and talks with lawmakers in 11 states as part of the project's aim to reform state and federal policy on marijuana.

"When I learned about Alabama's training requirement, I was astonished," Ellinger-Locke said.

In Alabama, a lobbyist must travel to Montgomery within 90 days of registering to attend a one-hour class on Alabama ethics law. The Institute for Justice's press release said that 15 percent of Alabama's lobbyists live outside the state and on average, all of them live more than 130 miles away from Montgomery.

Alabama's ethics commission denied Ellinger-Locke's request to take the class remotely. The Institute for Justice's lawsuit argues that the requirement for lobbyists violates the First Amendment of the Constitution.

"Americans have a First Amendment right to talk to elected officials," Ellinger-Locke said. "And I shouldn't have to travel hundreds of miles and spend hundreds of dollars to take a class in order to pick up the phone or send an email."

Paul Sherman, the Institute's senior attorney, said such a restriction should not be allowed because other employers do not have the same requirement.

"The government cannot force you to take a class before you exercise your First Amendment rights," Sherman said in the press release. "We do not impose that burden on parade organizers or public speakers or journalists, and we should not impose it on people who simply want to talk to state officials about matters of public policy."

The Institute filed a motion to allow Ellinger-Locke to speak to Alabama officials immediately. 

"I would love to be able to talk with Alabama lawmakers about ways they can build on recent reforms like Carly's Law and Leni's Law, which provided important protections for medical-marijuana patients," she said. "And I would be doing that right now if Alabama would let me."

Karen O'Keefe, the director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, said "MPP is seriously hampered by requirements like Alabama's," and claims that nonprofits such as MPP could lose employee time and travel costs if other states added similar rules.

Institute for Justice attorney Sam Gedge said that the only thing people should require to speak to an elected official is "an opinion and a phone."


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The Institute for Justice announced in a press release it has filed a lawsuit challenging an Alabama law that that requires all registered lobbyists to attend an ethics class in Montgomery, which is offered four times a year.
Federal Lawsuit, Challenges, Alabama Law, Ethics, Lobbyists
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2016-58-31
Wednesday, 31 Aug 2016 12:58 PM
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