The Alabama Legislature adjourned sine die on Friday after completing a four-day week and concluded its 28th legislative day.
Last week, Governor Kay Ivey held two bill signing days and publicly signed many bills, one being the bill to lower the age to obtain a commercial drivers license. It was a busy regular session that included a special session to deal with infrastructure. The legislature addressed many issues that affect the business community including unemployment compensation, budgets, education and key workforce development initiatives.
On Tuesday, the BCA’s Governmental Affairs Committee briefing featured Rep. Connie Rowe, R-Jasper, who spoke about several of her priorities, including reforming the pardon and parole board.
Her full remarks were broadcast on Facebook Live. If you missed it, like us on Facebook and watch the video.
Tuesday Briefing with Rep. Rowe
Posted by Business Council of Alabama on Tuesday, May 28, 2019
Apprenticeship Bill Sent to Governor
A bill aimed to streamline obtaining an apprenticeship and allow students to obtain certification in a skill/trade is one step closer to coming law. HB 570 by Rep. Terri Collins, R – Decatur, passed both houses and was transmited to the Governor’s office. The legislation aligns training on a statewide level for workforce credentialing. If students receive occupational licensing or apprenticeship credentialing, it must be recognized as valid by any Alabama agency, board, or commission of the appropriate skill/trade. It also provides that if someone meets these requirements, a licensing authority may not impose any additional testing standards than it does for any other applicant.
Sen. Clay Scofield, R- Guntersville, carried the companion bill, SB 358. The BCA commends Sen. Scofield and Rep. Collins for putting forward this important legislation that cuts through the bureaucratic red tape and allows qualified students to receive credentialing for their skill/trade.
Legislature passes $7.1 Billion Education Trust Fund Budget
SB 199, the Education Trust Fund Budget by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, and carried by Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, in the House passed on a voice vote. The $7.1 billion budget contains many programs that are important to workforce development and early education.
The proposed budget includes:
- A $26.8 million increase for Pre-Kindergarten, from $96 million in the previous year’s budget to $122.8 million;
- A 4-percent pay raise for teachers, which would raise the starting teacher salary to above $40,000 for the first time;
- A $2.5 million increase to the Dual Enrollment Scholarship Program;
- An increase to the Alabama Reading Initiative, rising from $44.8 million to $51.3 million in 2020;
- An approximate 7-percent increase for four-year colleges;
- The Research and Development Grant Program would receive $5 million for the first time;
- Career-Tech would receive $5 million;
- Career Coaches would receive $1.7 million, the same amount from the previous budget; and
- The Rural Broadband Grant Program would receive $20 million for the first time.
Read more here.
Two Bills Signed into Law by Governor Ivey
SB 193, by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, allows a person, who has lost a job through no fault of their own, to be eligible to apply for 26 weeks of unemployment benefits.
This law now sets a variable rate for Alabama’s unemployment compensation, basing it on the state’s unemployment rate. A person will now receive benefits for a longer duration during difficult economic times and a shorter duration during better times. It also includes a five-week extension of benefits for anyone enrolled in a state-approved training program.
The maximum weekly benefit is increased from $265 to $275. Alabama currently has the third lowest weekly benefit amount behind only Mississippi and Arizona. The increase would place Alabama in a three-way tie with Tennessee and Florida for the fourth lowest weekly benefit.
This is commonsense legislation that represents an estimated $45 million annual savings to Alabama employers, and the BCA commends the governor for signing it into law.
Also, a bill that will allow individuals at age 18 to drive combination commercial vehicles of 26,000 lbs. or more (such as truck and trailer combos) within Alabama state lines, HB 479, by Rep. Dexter Grimsley, D-Abbeville, was signed into law.
The Business Council of Alabama along with the Alabama Beverage Association, the Alabama Farmers Federation, the Alabama Retail Association, the Alabama Rural Electric Association of Cooperatives (AREA), the Alabama Trucking Association, Alabama’s chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), and Manufacture Alabama supported the commonsense legislation and commended the Alabama Legislature on its passage. Read the full release here.
The current age restriction bars anyone under the age of 21 from operating the standard tractor-trailer combination in Alabama. Many are lost to other industries by the time they reach the age of 21. This new law will create thousands of new jobs and will allow Alabama businesses that rely on trucks to move their goods or equipment to better compete with surrounding states for freight movement.
All new drivers must meet training and testing guidelines set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, and drivers ages 18-21 may not operate a commercial motor vehicle transporting hazardous material.
Rebuild Alabama Act Became Law
A Responsible Investment
After four years of hard work, Governor Kay Ivey signed the Rebuild Alabama Act into law in March. The Rebuild Alabama plan will invest more than $3 billion in roads and bridges across the state of Alabama over the next 10 years. Alabama’s road and bridge system has long been in disrepair due to its lack of funding at the state and local levels.
Because of Governor Kay Ivey’s unwavering support, and the hard work of bill sponsors Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, and Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R – Prattville, and the bipartisan effort led by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed, R-Jasper, Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, and House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, the Rebuild Alabama Act is now law.
“During the Special Session, the Alabama Legislature recognized that passing the Rebuild Alabama Plan was simply the right thing to do for the future of our state,” said BCA President and CEO Katie Boyd Britt. “Anyone who drives the roads of Alabama – whether on urban Interstates or rural, two-lane highways – knows the state is currently unable to maintain, improve, and construct a transportation system that adequately meets the needs of its citizens and the industries that are located here. But no longer.”
The data that supported the critical need to invest in Alabama’s roads and bridges resulted from extensive research performed by an infrastructure task force coordinated by Senate Pro Tem Marsh, who has been a steadfast advocate for addressing Alabama’s road and bridge problems.
Much of that data had to do with how investing or not investing in our infrastructure would impact jobs and economic growth in the state. Based on projections used by the Federal Highway Administration, Rebuild Alabama’s $320 million investment in transportation infrastructure will support 9,000 jobs in Alabama. Additionally, that same investment in Alabama’s roads and bridges will have an estimated $7.5 billion statewide economic impact over the next 10 years based on a recent report published by the Alabama Transportation Institute.
More jobs and being economically competitive with other states were key talking points used by Rep. Bill Poole, who sponsored the Rebuild Alabama bill in the House and worked tirelessly on this issue over the past three years.
Rebuild Alabama is a responsible investment in our state, our businesses, and our people and will yield tangible results in the years to come.
Deliverables and Oversight
Just a month after Rebuild Alabama was signed into law, its key champion, Governor Kay Ivey, gave the green light to four major projects in different areas of the state that had been on the project waiting list for years. The widening of I-565 in Huntsville, the expansion of McFarland Boulevard in Tuscaloosa, the widening of U.S. Highway 82 in Prattville, and the widening of U.S. 411 in Cherokee County were announced as a part of the Rebuild Alabama First Year Plan 2020.
Another critical, but less talked about, reform measure included in the Rebuild Alabama package was the oversight measures included in legislation championed by Sen. Clyde Chambliss, who sponsored the Rebuild Alabama bill in the Senate. A separate piece of legislation introduced by Sen. Chambliss established the legislative Joint Transportation Committee (JTC) which consists of 12 Senate members and 12 House members. This committee is charged with providing stronger oversight and accountability on process of transportation spending at the state level in order to ensure a higher level of efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
Prepared for the Future
Prior to the passage of Rebuild Alabama, our state DOT and local governments lacked the fiscal ability to fulfill current matching requirements for federal funding, let alone any new funding that would come with the passage of a federal infrastructure plan. House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, who sponsored legislation to address this issue in 2015, has been a consistent champion of making Alabama’s roads safer and our bridges more reliable. His willingness to continue the discussion is one of the primary reasons it received so much support in its passage earlier this year.
With the passage of Rebuild Alabama, our state is now prepared to match any additional funding provided by that plan and won’t be left sitting on the sidelines while other states benefit. Even if the federal government does not pass an infrastructure plan, Alabama will still have the additional funding provided by the Rebuild Alabama plan because our leaders chose to invest in Alabama and its people.
One area where we can undoubtedly expect some federal matching funds is with the Rebuild Alabama funding provided for the deepening and widening of the Port of Mobile. Being Alabama’s only deep-water port, the Port of Mobile is critical to Alabama’s statewide economy and the flow of goods not only to our state, but to the entire Southeast. By setting aside dollars to finance a bond issuance of $150 million over a 20-year period, Alabama will be able to draw-down nearly $450 million in federal funds for the project thanks to U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The expansion of the Port of Mobile is a huge win for the entire state and will substantially fuel Alabama’s manufacturing and farming industries.
Economic Developer Exemption Bill Passes
HB 289, by Rep. Alan Baker, R-Brewton, became law this session. This bill clarifies 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 sunset 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.
Bills of Interest that Passed
- SB 397, by Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, through ratification of a constitutional amendment, would create the Alabama Commission on Elementary and Secondary Education. This commission would be comprised of nine appointed members with staggered six-year terms who could only serve a total of two terms. This bill also would eliminate the current role of Superintendent of Education and replace it with a Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education. The bill passed the House 78-21 and could potentially be placed before the voters on the March 3rd primary.
- SB 398, by Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, would require the Governor to consult the minority caucus when appointing members to the Alabama Commission on Elementary and Secondary Education to ensure diversity of the board. This bill received a favorable report with a vote of 11-0 by the Senate Education Policy Committee on Tuesday. The bill passed the House 97-0 and has been sent to the Governor.
- HB 183, by Rep. Rod Scott, D-Fairfield, known as the Simplified Sellers Use Tax Part II, would provide for updates to the amnesty and class action provisions for eligible sellers and clarify transactions for which simplified sellers use tax cannot be collected and remitted. HB 183 passed the Senate 30-0 and has been sent to the Governor.
- HB 388, by Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, would implement steps to improve the reading proficiency of public school kindergarten through third grade students and ensure that every student completing the third grade is able to read at or above grade level. The bill, known as the Alabama Literacy Act, passed the House 92-3. After passing the Senate 26-0, this bill was sent to the Governor.
- SB 236, by Sen. Tim Melson, R- Florence, will create the nine-member Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission making medical grade cannabis available to qualified patients as follows: 1) establishing and administering a patient registry system for qualifying patients; 2) issuing medical cannabis cards to qualified patients; 3) approving health care providers to issue prescriptions for medical cannabis; 4) issuing licenses for the cultivation, processing, transportation, manufacturing, packaging, dispensing, and sale of medical cannabis; 5) inspecting licensed facilities; 6) procuring and using a secure seed-to-sale tracking system of all medical cannabis; 7) hiring appropriate staff to include a director, assistant director, chief inspection and enforcement officer (in consultation with Department of Agriculture and Industries), legal counsel, and other staff as appropriate; 8) contracting with the Board of Medical Examiners or other 3rd party to administer training to qualified health care providers; and 9) providing written annual reports tracking and implementing the provisions of this bill. After passing the House 80-19, this bill has been sent to the Governor.
- SB 315, by Sen. Dan Roberts, R- Mountain Brook, would require certain operators of underground facilities to join the “One-Call Notification System” and would require the system to submit an annual report of operations and financial review to the Public Service Commission. After passing the House 97-2, this bill has been sent to the Governor.
- HB 457, by Rep. Rod Scott, D -Fairfield, would establish The Railroad Modernization Act of 2019 that would authorize a tax credit against the income tax liability of an eligible taxpayer for qualified railroad rehabilitation expenditures. After passing the Senate 32-0, this bill was sent to the Governor.
- HB 540, by Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, known as the Alabama Incentives Modernization Act, includes a wide range of tools to attract and expand businesses in rural Alabama. It would allow various state funds to invest in opportunity zones. After passing the Senate 27-0, this bill was sent to the Governor.
- HB 152, by Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, the General Fund Budget, passed the Senate and was sent to the Governor on Thursday. There was an allocation of $4 million for the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) from the House-passed version. 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. Over the last several years, 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.
- SB 171, by Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman, removes the tax provisions on meeting space and other accommodations that are not regularly furnished for overnight accommodations within a lodging facility. Taxes would still be collected on hotel rooms fees. After passing the House 102-0, this bill has been sent to the Governor.
- SB 90, by Sen. Clay Scofield, R-Guntersville, would amend the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Act to expand the definition of an “unserved area” eligible for grant funding, increase the percentage of project costs eligible for grant funding, and broaden the permitted use of other federal and state support. This bill has been signed into law.
- SB 78, by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, would establish the Alabama Innovation Act to provide for research and development enhancement grants to certain Alabama companies. The grant would be based on in-house research and contract research expenses conducted in Alabama and consortium research expenses for qualified research conducted in Alabama. After passing the House 103-0, this bill has been sent to the Governor.
- HB 400, by Rep. Randall Shedd, R- Cullman, would authorize the placement, construction, installation, operation, and use of broadband and other advanced communication capabilities and related facilities within electric easements by electric providers. This bill was signed into law.
Bills of Interest that Failed
- SB 222, by Sen. Tom Butler, R-Madison, would require all county superintendents to be appointed by the county board of education. The bill passed the House Education Policy Committee by a vote 8-4 and saw no further action.
- HB 100, by Rep. Jim Carns, R-Vestavia Hills, would require plaintiffs in asbestos actions to file all available asbestos trust claims and produce all trust claims materials before trial. It passed the House by a vote of 102-0. After receiving a favorable report from the Senate Judiciary Committee, this bill saw no further action.
- HB 352, by Rep. Connie Rowe, R-Jasper, would place regulations on franchisors to prevent fraud and unfair business competition. Known as the Protect Alabama Small Business Act, HB 352 had a public hearing before the House Commerce and Small Business Committee and received a favorable report. It saw no further action.
- SB 23, by Sen. Chris Elliott, R-Fairhope, would provide that the police jurisdiction of a municipality would include only property in the corporate limits of the municipality. The bill passed the Senate and referred to the House Committee on County and Municipal Government but did not receive further action.
- SB 129, by Sen. Chris Elliott, R-Fairhope, would regulate the conduct of franchisors and their representatives to prevent fraud, unfair business practices, unfair methods of competition, impositions, and other abuses upon franchisees in the state. It passed the Senate 21-2 and saw no further action.
- SB 71, by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, would require any person who applies for a business license or permit from a municipality or county and who employs five or more persons to prove enrollment in E-Verify prior to issuance of a business license or permit. After receiving a favorable report from the Senate Government Affairs Committee, it saw no further action.
- HB 424, by Rep. Joe Lovvorn, R- Auburn, would extend tax credits to Alabama businesses for qualified research expenses incurred by Alabama companies that spend funds and resources in-house or pay Alabama research companies to conduct qualified research for new or improved products or services. This bill passed the House Ways and Means Education Trust Fund Committee but received no further action.
- SB 268, by Sen. Arthur Orr, R – Decatur, would provide allocation of funds to the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs to facilitate growth in the state’s system of inland ports and transfer facilities and for the coordination of a transportation system for inland waterways. After passing the Senate 30-0, it was read for the first time in the House and was referred to the County and Municipal Government Committee but received no further action.
- SB 247, by Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, would allow the Permanent Legislative Committee on Reapportionment to intervene in the legal action contesting the redistricting or reapportionment plan and would express the intent of the Legislature for the committee to seek intervention in actions in the federal court. After receiving a favorable report from the Senate Government Affairs Committee by a vote of 8-3, it saw no further action.
- SB 237, by Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, would create the Alabama Open Records Act to establish a process for requesting public records from a governmental body and requires governmental bodies to adopt rules and designate a custodian of records. The bill had a public hearing in the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee but saw no further action.
- HB 70, by Rep. David Standridge, R- Hayden, would provide a procedure for the deployment and investment of broadband infrastructure and other telecommunications services near the right-of-way of railroads, including railroad crossings. It was assigned to the House Transportation, Utilities, and Infrastructure Committee. After receiving a favorable report, this bill saw no further action.
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.