Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey: State ‘is here to do business, not politics’ over LGBTQ restrictions – AL.com
@GovernorKayIvey in Mobile today to tout Alabama’s business and economic climate weighs in on whether there will be economic fallout from her signing of legislation last week viewed as anti-LGBTQ. pic.twitter.com/g0WFXBOwdG
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said Tuesday that the state “is here to do business, not politics” when asked about a potential economic fallout from controversial legislation approved last week over gender identity issues involving children.
But is any economic fallout coming? The state’s lone LGBTQ legislator says it’s been “radio silence” from the business community since last week’s passage of legislation that critics have blasted “cruel” and “hateful” toward a minority segment of Alabama.
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“We’re doing business in Alabama and are trying to take care of our people and helping our young people find a strong, healthy pathway to a firm positive adulthood,” Ivey said during a stop in Mobile County in which she touted Alabama’s business climate as among the most positive in the U.S.
She said her signing of two bills on Friday was “just the right thing to do” to “protect young people.”
The bills included:
“If the good Lord makes you a boy when you are born, you are a boy,” Ivey said. “If the good Lord makes you a girl when you’re born, you’re a girl. We need to spend our energy and focus helping these young people become healthy and productive people as adults as God would have them be.”
Alabama State Rep. Neil Rafferty, D-Birmingham. File, John Sharp, email@example.com
The flurry of legislative activity last week has been followed up with what state Rep. Neil Rafferty, D-Birmingham, says is a silence from Alabama’s business community.
Rafferty, the only openly gay member of the Legislature, said while some aspects of last week’s activity was a surprise – highlighted by the last-minute inclusion of education restrictions – there was little done by business leaders to support LGBTQ rights this legislative session.
“It’s time for folks with an interest in inclusivity and diversity to be stepping up,” Rafferty said.
He said that in June, when LGBTQ Pride Month activities are underway, some businesses will be “changing logos” and gearing their marketing efforts toward the LGBTQ community.
“My question will be: Where were you in April?” said Rafferty who, like other Alabama Democrats, have called the GOP actions on the LGBTQ restrictions as “political” ahead of the May 24 primaries.
The Alabama Legislature is ruled by a GOP supermajority. All but two State House Republicans — Rep. Cynthia Almond of Tuscaloosa and Rep. Corley Ellis of Columbiana — voted in support of the SB184.
Indeed, little-to-no fallout seems to be occurring.
Lee Sentell, the director of the Alabama Department of Tourism, said he doesn’t believe that anything transpiring in Montgomery last week “will have a significant negative impact because most of the states that Alabama competes with, in particularly in the South, had similar legislation on various special interests.”
“Our office has not gotten multiple calls that I’m aware of,” said Sentell.
John Oros, president and CEO with the Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau, said his agency is watching national trends and similar legislation closely, but noted that no fallout has happened.
“This growing travel segment perceives Birmingham and our municipalities highly according to the 2021 Municipal Equality Index,” said Oros, referring to what he says is a “premier benchmarking tool” for municipalities and business leaders on how cities rank on LGBTQ inclusion in their laws and policies.
“Hospitality is what we are known for in the South,” said Oros. “Our goal has always been to be welcoming to visitors of all nationalities, interests, persuasions, races and religious backgrounds.”
The legislative activity comes one year after Alabama lawmakers approved a ban on transgender athletes participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity.
But little blowback happened despite initial concerns about the NCAA pulling out of sponsored events, and the World Games reconsidering its Birmingham event that will start in July.
No major events have been pulled from Alabama.
Rafferty said that while companies might not be reacting, prospective employees could be looking elsewhere for opportunities.
“We can make the business environment as easy for companies to move to as we want to,” said Rafferty. “Lord knows we do a lot to make sure that happens. However, it’s a human capital problem and its being able to train and attract talent that (the newly-signed bills) speak to.”
He added, “Companies that require high skill jobs, they won’t be able to attract people who will be comfortable living here and that includes talented Alabamians with great skills that are desperately needed in Alabama.”
FILE – This Thursday, May 12, 2016, file photo, shows a sign outside a restroom at 21c Museum Hotel in Durham, N.C. The Associated Press has determined that North Carolina’s law limiting LGBT protections will cost the state more than $3 billion in lost business over a dozen years.That’s despite Republican assurances that the “bathroom bill” isn’t hurting the economy.
(AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)AP
Nationwide – where similar legislation has been rolled out in recent years – the reaction is far more muted than in 2016, when North Carolina faced severe repercussions from its support of the nation’s first so-called “bathroom bill.”
PayPal canceled a planned expansion project in the state, and the NCAA and NBA moved events to other states. Concerts were canceled, and the rising toll was estimated to cost the state over $3.7 billion in lost business over a dozen years.
Other states also faced repercussions a few years ago: Tourism officials in Texas, in 2017, said the state lost $66 million from having the issue simply debated.
The most visible action of late comes in the form of a business statement, signed by 238 companies. The statement is sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign, and names each company that opposes what they view as anti-LGBTQ state legislation considered harmful and restrictive.
But the number of bills viewed as anti-LGBTQ continues to swell ahead of a midterm election season in Alabama and beyond.
The HRC is tracking 320 bills, including 140 that “directly target transgender people” and approximately 75 that would ban trans youths participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity.
The HRC notes that in 2021, legislators in a record 34 states introduced 147 anti-transgender bills in 2021,
The U.S. Department of Justice issued a letter last week to all state attorneys general reminding them of federal constitutional and statutory provisions protecting transgender youth against discrimination. A lawsuit was filed Monday in federal court seeking to overturn Alabama’s newly-signed medical treatment ban.
But none of those issues seemed to loom over Ivey’s trip to embrace economic opportunities in Mobile, where the first two businesses were announced at the evolving South Alabama Logistics Park (SALP) near Theodore.
One of those firms, DC Safety, is relocating its headquarters from New York City to Mobile, an investment of $33.5 million.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey prepares to speak to the media following a news conference announcing two businesses locating to the South Alabama Logistics Park west of Mobile, Ala., on Tuesday, April 12, 2022. (John Sharpfirstname.lastname@example.org).
“I’m confident you’ll find Alabamians are as good as they come and our state is the very place to do business,” Ivey said.
Philip Burton, president and CEO of Burton Property Group and developer of SALP, said his firm’s focus is on marketing the logistics center that is expected to encompass a whopping 1,400 acres and include 12 million square feet of industry space.
He’s got a long way to go: The facility that has been constructed – a 200,000-square-foot building, set to be completed this summer – represents only 2 percent of the overall project.
Burton said he was unaware of the anti-LGBTQ legislation when asked if it was a worry to the state’s economic climate.
A bigger concern for companies, he said, is getting product more efficiently through seaports like the Alabama State Docks.
“Someone who is looking at their box sitting off the coast of California, they want to know where to go to get in quicker,” said Burton.
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