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Legislative Leadership Staff Discuss 2016 Session; BCA Chairman Addresses Tuesday Briefing

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The chiefs of staff to House Speaker Mike Hubbard and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh updated today’s Business Council of Alabama’s Tuesday Briefing on the pace of the 2016 regular legislative session.

Hubbard’s chief of staff, Jim Entrekin, and Marsh’s chief of staff, Philip Bryan, spoke at today’s Tuesday Briefing that included a welcome by 2016 BCA Chairman Tommy Lee, President and CEO of Vulcan Inc. in Foley.

“We have a big year ahead of us,” Lee said. “We’re going to have to stick together so that we speak with one voice.”

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Today’s Tuesday Briefing was sponsored by Regions Financial Corporation. The scheduled speaker, Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, had a last minute conflict.

Bryan said he expects the session will last the entire 30 allotted working days. “We’ll go two days a week from here on out,” Bryan said.

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Entrekin said a significant number of House members believe that once the two budgets are passed, it might be time to call it a session and adjourn. “It’s been a very good session so far,” Entrekin said.

Entrekin said that with BCA help, many Republican House Caucus bills have passed and sent to the Senate.

They include HB 34 by Rep. Mac McCutcheon, R-Huntsville, the Alabama Renewal Act port tax credit bill.

Other House bills important to the business community and supported by the BCA that are now in the Senate include:

HB 36 by Rep. Kyle South, R-Jasper, the Small Business Act tax credit bill;

HB 37, the right-to-work constitutional amendment by Rep. Arnold Mooney, R-Birmingham;

HB 38 by Rep. Mark Tuggle, R-Alexander City, the independent Taxpayer Advocate bill;

HB 41 by Rep. Donnie Chesteen, R-Geneva, the Alabama Ahead Act broadband wi-fi bill, and its funding bill, HB 227 by Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa;

HB 125 by Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, the Alabama Longitudinal Data System bill;

HB 174 by Rep. David Faulkner, R-Birmingham, the Alabama Uniform Minimum Wage and Right to Work Act that prohibits local governments from setting wage and benefits levels for private industry.

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BCA President and CEO William J. Canary thanked Entrekin and Bryan and the House and Senate leadership for prompt action on the business community’s agenda for 2016.

Although the Legislature traditionally waits until the end of regular sessions to finalize both state budgets, the mood is to pass them early, paving the way for other bills, including local ones.

With the two state budgets moving at a fast pace, it’s probable that they will be approved well in advance of the end of the session, which must occur by mid-May. “There’s a chance we’ll have both budgets out by the end of the month,” Entrekin said.

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The Senate passed the $1.8 billion General Fund budget and the annual Sunset Bills within the first 10 days of the session, which began Feb. 2.

Voting 24-10, the Senate on Feb. 25 passed next fiscal year’s General Fund budget, SB 125 by Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, and sent it to the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee. SB 125 probably will be subject to a committee hearing next week.

HB 117, the 2016-17 Education Trust Fund Budget by Poole, awaits action in the House Ways and Means Education Committee. Entrekin said the bill will include more funding for educators and 4 percent raises for elementary, secondary, and post-secondary education employees.

BCA Tuesday Meetings feature legislative leadership and administration officials who discuss topics of interest to Alabama’s business community.

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