Governor Proposes to Restore ADEM funding

Governor Kay Ivey released her budget proposals this week. The governor included a major boost to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), increasing ADEM’s allocation to $4 million.

The BCA joined Alabama’s leading business and agriculture groups in urging the Alabama legislature to restore funding for ADEM. In a joint letter to legislators, the groups wrote, “Entities regulated by ADEM should and do pay for the cost of issuing and enforcing the environmental permits required by federal and state law. However, the business community stepped up and filled the hole when historic budget shortfalls caused the legislature to cut ADEM’s General Fund appropriations from $7.4 million in 2008 to less than $0.6 million today.

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“In recent years, ADEM has cut costs where possible and permit fees have increased 114%. ADEM’s reserves have now been exhausted as a result of inflation and the increased cost of administering water quality programs that benefit all Alabamians. As a result, the agency requires additional funding.”

The BCA has been a consistent supporter of adequate state funding for ADEM in order to eliminate the need for continued fee increases imposed on the backs of Alabama’s regulated industries.

Lottery Bill Introduced

Alabama could finally receive a “clean” statewide lottery under a package of bills sponsored by Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville.  SB116 and SB130 received their first readings and were sent to the Senate Tourism Committee.

Upon passage of the legislature and a state referendum, SB116 would establish the “Alabama Lottery Commission” which would oversee management of the lottery. According to Sen. McClendon’s proposal, a clean lottery bill would not include table games or casinos and they would remain illegal.

SB130 would create the fiscal agent for the predicted revenue which Sen. McClendon estimates at a potential $250 million. His proposal is a 50/50 split between the Education Trust Fund and the General Fund. Establishing a fiscal agent would allow the legislature to have discretion of the revenue without having to seek an additional constitutional amendment.

If the package of bills were to pass the legislature and receive endorsement by the governor, the constitutional amendment could be on the ballot as early as March 3, 2020.

Common Core Repeal Bill Passes Senate

On Tuesday, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, filed a bill to repeal the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards (SB119) and eliminate any federal alignment with state standards for math and English in public K-12 schools.

The bill passed the Senate Education Policy Committee unanimously with an agreement the bill would be amended prior to final passage on the Senate floor.

SB119 raised concerns that an immediate repeal would require schools to have three sets of math and English standards over the next three school years. To eliminate this issue, an amendment was offered by Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman, that would require the state to implement new standards for the 2021-2022 school year.

Sen. Gudger’s amendment was adopted, and the bill passed the Senate 23-7. It received its first reading in the House on Thursday and will be considered by the House Education Policy Committee.

Ethics Reform

When the Legislature returns to Montgomery following next week’s Spring Break, attention will shift to clarifying the state’s ambiguous ethics laws.

Included in this legislation is a provision to clarify that economic developers do not have to register as lobbyists. Should economic developers be required to list their clients, businesses seeking to locate projects in a state could avoid Alabama.

Last year, the Legislature clarified that Alabama economic developers such as site selectors, industrial developers, and chamber of commerce officials would not be classified as lobbyists; however, that law sunsets on April 1, 2019.

If classified as lobbyists, economic developers would have to reveal information that could endanger economic development efforts. The rule for professional economic developers includes exemption from registering with the state, undergoing yearly training, and reporting activity.

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Mark Your Calendars for April 2

The next meeting of the BCA’s Governmental Affairs Committee will be Tuesday, April 2 at 8:30 a.m. in the first floor auditorium of the Business Center of Alabama, 2 North Jackson Street, Montgomery. Please RSVP to Anna Dobbins for this briefing.

That evening the BCA will host its 2019 Legislative Reception at the Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa. RSVP to Anna Dobbins by March 29. Looking forward to seeing you there!

If you have any questions regarding the legislative session, please contact BCA’s Senior Vice President for Governmental Affairs David Cole or BCA’s Vice President for Governmental Affairs Molly Cagle.