The Legislature completed three session days and concluded its 24th legislative day this week. Emotions ran high as time is running out to pass critical bills. The lottery bill failed in the House, and the General Fund Budget has been sent to conference committee to negotiate the Children’s Health Insurance Program funding among other items. The Education Trust Fund Budget is expected to be deliberated after Memorial Day Weekend.
On Tuesday, Governor Kay Ivey signed two key pieces of legislation into law: the unemployment compensation bill and a bill to lower the age to obtain a commercial drivers license.
By the end of the 24th legislative day, the Alabama House had filed 641 bills and the Senate 427 bills. The Business Council of Alabama continues to monitor and act on those that affect Alabama’s business community.
On Tuesday, the BCA’s Governmental Affairs Committee briefing featured Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, who spoke about several of his priorities, including the lottery proposal, Medicaid, passing the General Fund budget and funding CHIP.
His full remarks were broadcast on Facebook Live. If you missed it, like us on Facebook and watch the video.
Tuesday Briefing with Rep. Clouse
Posted by Business Council of Alabama on Tuesday, May 21, 2019
Apprenticeship Bill Sent to House
A bill aimed to streamline obtaining an apprenticeship and allow students to obtain certification in a skill/trade is working its way through the Senate. SB 358, Sen. Clay Scofield, R- Guntersville, will align 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. This bill 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. After passing the Senate 26-0, it received its first reading in the House and was referred to the House Education Policy Committee.
Senate Lottery Proposal Fails on Procedural Vote
SB 220, a constitutional amendment bill that would legalize a state lottery, failed on a procedural vote on the House floor Tuesday afternoon, effectively killing the bill for this session.
Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range, is the sponsor of the bill that passed the Senate. Republican opposition is split between those who are opposed to all forms of gambling and those who support it but disagree about which types of gambling should be allowed. The House Democratic Caucus held a press conference Wednesday afternoon to explain their opposition to SB 220.
The House Committee approved a substitute for Albritton’s bill by Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, chairman of the House General Fund budget committee. Rep. Clouse sponsored an amendment that would give 75 percent of the revenue to the General Fund, 25 percent to the Education Trust Fund, and 0.25 percent would be earmarked for resources and treatment for compulsive gamblers.
SB 220 initially limited lottery games to paper and instant tickets, but an amendment was added to allow tickets to be purchased electronically. Video lottery games are not allowed.
House Committee passes $7.1 Billion Education Trust Fund budget
The House Ways and Means Education Committee passed SB 199, the Education Trust Fund Budget by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, and carried by Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, on a voice vote. The $7.1 billion budget contains many issues that are important to workforce development and early education.
The proposed budget includes:
- A $25.3 million increase for Pre-Kindergarten, from $98 million in the previous year’s budget to $124 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 of $6.5 million to the Alabama Reading Initiative, rising from $45 million to $52.5 million in 2020;
- Four-year colleges would increase by $61.5 million, to $1.2 billion, an approximate 6-percent increase;
- The Research and Development Grant Program would receive $5 million for the first time;
- Career-Tech would receive $7 million a $2 million increase;
- Career Coaches would receive $1.7 million, the same amount from the previous budget; and
- The Rural Broadband Grant Program would receive $8 million for the first time.
After passage, Rep. Poole said he intends to bring up the ETF for debate on the House floor the “first legislative day after Memorial Day.” The package of education budget bills will be the first calendar adopted by the House next Tuesday.
Unemployment Compensation Signed by Governor
On Tuesday, Governor Ivey signed SB 193, by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, into law.
Currently, if a person loses a job through no fault of their own, they are 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.
Governor Signs Bill to Lower Age for Truck Drivers
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 on Thursday.
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.
Bills of Interest
- 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 Education Policy Committee and is currently pending its third reading.
- 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 Education Policy Committee and is currently pending its third reading.
- 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 received a unanimous favorable report from the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee and is currently pending its third reading.
- 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, it is currently pending its third reading.
- 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 passed the Senate by a vote of 28-0 and is headed to the Governor.
- 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 is currently pending its third reading.
- 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, and it is currently pending its third reading.
- 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 is currently pending its third reading in the House.
- 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 Ways and Means General Fund Committee in the House, it is currently pending its third reading.
- 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 has been referred to the House Committee on County and Municipal Government.
- 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. It is currently pending action from the House Commerce and Small Business Committee.
- 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 is currently pending its third reading.
- 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. SB 90 passed the Senate 27-0. After receiving a favorable report from the Ways and Means Education Committee, it is currently pending its third reading.
- SB 78, by Senator 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. It has received a favorable report from the House Ways and Means Education Committee and is currently pending its third reading.
- 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 and was carried over on the House floor earlier this week.
- 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.
- 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 is pending its third reading.
- 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 a vote was not taken.
- 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 receiving a favorable report from the Senate Education Policy Committee, it is currently pending its third reading.
- 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. SB 236 passed the Senate 17-6. After receiving its first reading in the House, it has been referred to the House Health Committee.
- 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. It passed the House on Wednesday by a vote of 97-2 and 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 House 88-6, it received its first reading in the Senate and was referred to the Finance and Tax Education Committee. After receiving a favorable report, it is currently pending its third reading.
- 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. It passed the House on Thursday by a vote of 98-0 and has been referred to the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee.
- HB 152, by Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, the General Fund Budget, voted to non-concur with the Senate changes after the bill passed the Senate on Tuesday. There was a decrease of $1.25 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. The House has appointed Reps. Clouse, Hall, and South to the conference committee. The Senate has not yet taken the bill out of the basket to make their appointments.
Tuesday’s Briefing to Feature Rep. Connie Rowe
Please join us next Tuesday, May 28 at 8:30 a.m. for the BCA’s Governmental Affairs Committee Briefing with Rep. Connie, R-Jasper, House Republican Caucus Vice-Chair.
Please email RSVP@bcatoday.org to let us know you’ll be present. The meeting will begin at 8:30 a.m. in the first floor auditorium of the Business Center of Alabama, 2 North Jackson Street, Montgomery.
We’ll be broadcasting Rep. Rowe’s briefing on Facebook Live for anyone who’s unable to attend. Find us on Facebook and tune in.
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.