Legislature Gets Its Second Wind

The chairmen of the agenda-setting House and Senate rules committees at today’s Business Council of Alabama’s Tuesday morning briefing outlined some of the important bills remaining in the 2017 legislative session that will be at the halfway point this week.

Senate Rules Committee Chairman Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills, and House Rules Committee Chairman Alan Boothe, R-Troy, said while the session has 17 remaining work days, that’s not a lot of time to accomplish what faces both houses, including the politically charged impeachment issue.

Introducing Sen. Waggoner and Rep. Boothe was BCA Chairman Jeff Coleman, president and CEO of today’s briefing sponsor Coleman Allied and Coleman World Moving, a 103-year-old family business in Dothan.

“We care deeply about the growth and prosperity of Alabama,” Coleman said. “We’re very proud of what we do every day to put more Alabamians to work and create good policies.”

Historic building renovation tax credit legislation, modernizing Alabama’s infrastructure support, a prison system overhaul, and the two state budgets remain yet in the session that must end on or before May 22.

Important to Sen. Waggoner is reauthorizing the historic building renovation tax credit law that expired last year.

Sen. Waggoner introduced SB 262 that would renew the state income tax credit program for the rehabilitation, preservation, or development of certified historic structures.

The tax credit would allow property owners or developers to repurpose older buildings and make their rehabilitation cost-effective with new construction in addition to preserving links to Alabama’s past.

“That legislation has transformed Birmingham and made a difference all over the state,” he said. “We want to bring those buildings back to life.”

The House version is HB 345 by Rep. Victor Gaston, R-Mobile. Rep. Gaston’s House bill passed last year but stalled in the Senate.

The BCA supports this legislation that Sen. Waggoner expects will begin moving this week.

“Hopefully we can get that bill passed,” Sen. Waggoner said. “It’s my priority in the 17 days left.”

Rep. Boothe said the “weeks ahead will be tumultuous to say the least.”

“Depending on what happens this week and what happens next week, that will determine the course of action this Legislature will take for the rest of this year,” Rep. Boothe said.

He said the infrastructure enhancement bill to update Alabama’s road support law that hasn’t been changed in 25 years is being prepared but has not yet been introduced. “We will start working on that bill,” Rep. Boothe said.

The BCA is a founding member of the Alliance for Alabama’s Infrastructure that is focused on fixing Alabama’s infrastructure crisis in order to sustain long-term solutions for Alabama’s transportation infrastructure and inform policy makers and the public of the need.

AAI members include a cross-section of Alabama’s business, transportation, energy, local government, and construction communities who believe that investing in Alabama’s infrastructure will result in repairing existing roads and bridges and launching new priority projects to make our roads safer, generate economic growth, and improve the quality of life for all Alabamians.

Rep. Boothe said he expects the Senate will pass the $6.4 billion 2017-18 Education Trust Fund budget today and send it to the House. The ETF bill, SB 129 by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, was carried over two weeks ago when the Legislature adjourned for spring break.

The bill was on today’s Senate special order calendar.

The House last month passed the $1.8 billion General Fund bill for the 2017-18 fiscal year and sent it to the Senate.

Also on today’s proposed Senate special order calendar is SB 315, the veterans scholarship bill by Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville. The bill would update the law in order to better manage its current open-ended appropriation and slow its financial demand on the ETF by saving approximately $5 million per year.

The Senate special order calendar also contains a bill supported by the BCA, SB 307 by Sen. Orr.

It’s a $15 million supplemental appropriation to the Department of Education and Alabama Community College System for repairs or deferred maintenance of facilities, insuring facilities, or acquiring education technology and equipment.

Then there’s the “prison issue we going to have to take a look at,” Rep. Boothe said, referring to legislation to authorize funding to help alleviate Alabama’s overcrowded prisons.

SB 302 by Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, will give local communities the ability to build up to two new prisons, if they choose, to replace current ones that support local economies. “It’s changed a tremendous amount since its inception,” Rep. Boothe said.

Rep. Boothe mentioned the atmosphere in the House that may have to face an impeachment vote on the governor.

“We’re in uncharted waters what’s happening in the executive branch what’s happening in state government now,” Rep. Boothe said. “No one over there now has ever taken a vote we’re probably going to have to take in the next couple of weeks. Situation will dictate the direction we take in this dilemma that we all face.”