Victory For the Freedom to Petition in Alabama

Great news out of the Deep South! Readers of Liberty & Law may recall the case of Maggie Ellinger-Locke and the Marijuana Policy Project, who joined with IJ to challenge Alabama’s requirement that all lobbyists physically travel to Montgomery to take an in-person ethics class before they speak to elected representatives. We are pleased to announce that, in response to IJ’s lawsuit, the Alabama Ethics Commission has dropped its in-person training requirement, meaning that Maggie and others like her can resume exercising their First Amendment right to talk with elected officials.

Under the previous policy, if Maggie made even a single phone call to an Alabama legislator to discuss marijuana policy, she would have been required to register as a lobbyist and attend an in-person ethics class held only four times a year—and only in Montgomery, Alabama. For Maggie, who lives 800 miles away in Arlington, Virginia, this was an insurmountable burden. And Maggie was not alone—more than 15 percent of lobbyists registered in Alabama in 2016 were from outside the state, and about half are from outside Montgomery. On average, lobbyists had to travel over 130 miles to attend the mandatory ethics training.

No longer. In response to IJ’s lawsuit, the Alabama Ethics Commission has agreed to make its training available online—a victory for free speech and for common sense.

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