As the legislature’s 2021 regular session came to a close this week, we are proud to report that BCA’s proven track record of being the foremost advocate for Alabama job creators is stronger than ever.
Since well before the session began in February, our team at BCA has been working diligently to monitor and engage on legislation that would affect the business community. It’s our number one priority that all businesses within the state, regardless of size and sector, have every opportunity to grow and flourish – and our advocacy work directly reflects this overarching goal every day of the year.
With another legislative session in the books, we wanted to immediately update you on our progress these last few months on the things that matter most to our business community, ranging from regulatory and tax policies to education and workforce development to infrastructure and innovation.
First, we kicked off the session by seeing three of our top legislative priorities enacted within the first two weeks, thanks to the resounding support of Governor Kay Ivey and the legislature:
This bill provides civil immunity for covered entities, including businesses, operating in Alabama from certain claims and damages asserted by individuals who allege they contracted or were exposed to COVID-19. Exceptions to this immunity would exist if the covered entity acted with wanton, reckless, willful or intentional misconduct when it comes to complying with government issued COVID guidelines. Such misconduct must be proven under a “clear and convincing” evidentiary standard.
This piece of legislation reauthorizes and enhances three key economic development incentives: the Alabama Jobs Act, the Growing Alabama Credit, and the Alabama Port Credit.
This bill ensures that economic stimulus payments, and related recovery rebates or credits, received by Alabamians will not be subject to state income tax. It will also exclude from state income tax any COVID relief received by businesses.
Additionally, HB 170 enacts revenue neutral measures to benefit companies that elect to invest in both property and personnel in our state, as well as measures to decouple from provisions of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act that would hinder Alabama’s competitiveness in economic development.
After these initial successes, the BCA team also saw several additional legislative priorities for the session become law. This included HB 408, which will provide businesses with clear and consistent guidelines when classifying employees and contractors. Additionally, SB 249 was enacted; this bill made important changes to a law passed in 2019 which penalizes companies that relocate a call center without giving advanced notice to the State. SB 249 will ensure that only call centers receiving incentives from the State are subject to the law and would define the term “relocate” as physically relocating outside the state of Alabama.
“Our members are our greatest resources – and our unwavering focus. During the coronavirus pandemic, we have worked tirelessly to ensure businesses all across the state have had the resources that they needed to navigate these difficult times, in addition to elevating our advocacy for Alabama job creators and hardworking families. As exemplified by our work in the state legislature, we are also actively engaged in fighting for pro-growth wins that will last far into the future. Alabama is open for business!” – Katie Boyd Britt, BCA president and CEO
BCA tracked a multitude of additional legislation throughout the session, including BCA-supported bills that were not on the priorities list. Examples that were enacted include the following:
HB 281: Historic Tax Credit Reauthorization
This bill will extend through 2027 tax credits for qualified rehabilitation expenditures for the substantial rehabilitation of certified historic structures. The Alabama Historical Committee will be responsible for the administering of the tax credit program and approving the rehabilitation of qualified structures that qualify for the income tax credit.
SB 215: Broadband Expansion
The Connect Alabama Act creates the Alabama Digital Expansion Authority, which would be tasked with overseeing the expansion and availability of high-speed broadband services throughout the state. The bill also includes the creation of the Alabama Digital Expansion Finance Corporation that could issue bonds of up to $250 million to finance eligible projects.
HB 473: Alabama Rural, Agribusiness, and Opportunity Zones Jobs Act
This bill creates the Alabama Rural, Agribusiness, and Opportunity Zone Jobs Act to establish procedures for a growth fund to invest in growth businesses located in growth zones in Alabama, and that are eligible to receive matching loan funds from the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) Fund. The SSBCI Fund, established by this bill, would receive money from the federal allocations to the states pursuant to the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
HB 609: Innovate Alabama Matching Grant Program
This legislation creates the Innovate Alabama Matching Grant Program, which will provide matching grants to entities that have received either federal Small Business Innovation Research or Small Business Technology Transfer Research grants. The purpose of this bill is to grow Alabama’s economy by encouraging innovative small businesses to engage in research that may have the potential for some technological innovation and commercialization.
SB 373: Unemployment Insurance Program Integrity Act
This bill requires the Alabama Department of Labor to adopt policies to recover improper overpayments of unemployment benefits. It would also allow the Alabama Department of Labor to enter into a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General to actively detect and investigate cases of unemployment fraud.
HB 340: Sales and Use Tax Exemption on Materials for Road/Bridge Projects
HB 340 allows for the purchase of construction materials and supplies for highway, road and bridge projects that are contracted with a government entity to be exempted from sales and use taxes. This will save an estimated $11.5 million in taxpayer dollars which will be used to fund additional road and bridge projects in the state.
HB 165: Certificate of Existence Fee for Businesses
This bill will allow the secretary of state to waive the $25 Certificate of Existence fee if a state of emergency has been declared in this state or another. The fee can also be waived if the federal government determines substantial compliance with certain provisions of law unreasonable.
SB 11: Airport Authority Sales and Use Tax Exemption
This piece of legislation will exempt airport authorities from paying sales and use taxes. It will also include airport authorities in the list of governmental entities that may be issued a certificate of exemption from sales and use taxes on certain projects and in the list of governmental entities that shall obtain an annual certificate of exemption.
HB 446: Energy and Fuel Choice Protections
This bill will provide that no governmental entity may prohibit a person or entity from using utility services from a provider that is capable of providing service and is authorized to do business in Alabama.
In addition to representing the business community through the passage of pro-jobs legislation, BCA also monitored more than 1,050 bills to ensure they did not contain provisions that would negatively impact the business community. By opposing or amending various pieces of legislation, the BCA team prevented laws from being created that would have increased health care costs, created new potential for civil liability exposure and implemented new mandates on businesses operating in Alabama.
Ultimately, BCA’s agenda is member-driven, and none of this would be possible without your continued support and leadership. BCA would like to extend our appreciation to the member businesses and individuals who volunteered their time, resources and talent to help make the 2021 regular session of the Alabama Legislature a success. A special thanks goes out to our policy committees and those who tuned into our weekly capital issues briefings.
“Through inclusive collaboration with elected officials, member businesses and partners in the business community, BCA continues to act as the broad tent that brings people and organizations together, serving as the strong, unified voice for business in the state. These past few months have certainly advanced BCA’s goal of fostering a 21st century economy in which all Alabamians can thrive, both through their livelihood and their home life. I know that the BCA team will already be hard at work preparing for potential special sessions to come, as well as the 2022 regular session, as we continue to move Alabama forward.” – Gary Smith, chairman of BCA