The House and Senate used three legislative days in a busy week that saw House passage of the highly anticipated economic development bill, public hearings on lottery bills, and increased funding for the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) advance as part of the General Fund budget.
With seven legislative days complete, the Alabama House had filed 365 bills and the Senate 246. The Business Council of Alabama continues to monitor and act on those that affect Alabama’s business community.
House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Huntsville, spoke at the BCA’s Governmental Affairs Committee Tuesday briefing.
House Passes Economic Developer Exemption Bill
On Thursday, the House voted 94-4 to pass HB 289, by Rep. Alan Baker, R-Brewton. The 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.
Read more here.
General Fund Budget Advances with Restored Funding for ADEM
The General Fund Budget, HB 152, by Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, passed out of the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee and received its second reading this week. It includes a major boost to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), increasing ADEM’s allocation to $4 million.
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 $2.1 billion 2020 fiscal year General Fund Budget funds the Department of Corrections, the courts, Medicaid, public safety and other non-education state agencies.
In addition to the increase for ADEM, it includes:
- An additional $40 million for the Department of Corrections (8 percent increase);
- Hiring 500 more corrections officers, increasing pay for staff, and healthcare improvements;
- An additional $6 million for ALEA (11 percent increase) to hire and equip 50 additional state troopers;
- Two percent cost-of-living increase for state employees ($12 million total); and
- $105 million for FY21 when the state assumes 20 percent of the cost of the Children Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
Environmental Management Commission Appointees Approved
The Senate Confirmation Committee on Wednesday confirmed all five of the BCA’s recommendations to the Alabama Environmental Management Commission. The seven-member Commission, whose members are appointed to six-year terms by the governor with Senate confirmation, is charged with developing the state’s environmental policy, hearing administrative appeals of permits, and adopting environmental regulations.
The five appointees are:
- Tom Walters, retired, environmental engineer, Jacobs Engineering Group
- Jay Masingill, retired, Alabama Oil and Gas Board
- Ruby Perry, Veterinarian
- Kevin McKinstry, Biologist, Westervelt
- Mery Merritt, Realtor, Century 21
Lottery Bills Have Public Hearing
SB 116 and SB 130 by Senator Jim McClendon, R-Springville, and SB 220 by Senator Greg Albritton, R-Atmore, all lottery bills, were discussed in a public hearing before the Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee on Thursday.
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 those would remain illegal.
SB 130 would create the fiscal agent for the predicted revenue, which Sen. McClendon estimates could be $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.
SB 220, by Sen. Albritton also establishes a state lottery and authorizes the sale of lottery tickets. This bill would also require a constitutional amendment.
After the hearing, the Committee did not vote on any bills, and none advanced for a second reading.
Read more here.
Ethics Reform Bill Filed in Senate
Earlier this week, Sen. Greg Albritton filed SB 230 that deals with ethics reform. The bill, which has 10 cosponsors, has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The BCA supports ethics reforms that bring clarity and certainty to the governing process while maintaining the appropriate ethical safeguards for the state. The BCA staff is methodically evaluating and reviewing all aspects of the proposed legislation.
Senate Honors U.S. Sen. Shelby as “Alabama’s Education Senator”
The Senate on Thursday passed SJR 29, by Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, a resolution proclaiming U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby as “Alabama’s education senator.” The resolution recognized him becoming Alabama’s longest-serving senator in history. The resolution recognizes Sen. Shelby’s “deep commitment and unstinting support to advance science and technology education and medical research has benefited Auburn University, the University of Alabama, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the University of South Alabama, and other institutions throughout our state.”
The Senate resolved, “That this body recognizes its former member, the Honorable Richard Shelby for his leadership in reestablishing year-round Pell Grants, one of the most important national education reforms in the past quarter century, and gratefully thanks him for his service as ‘Alabama’s education senator.’”
The House is expected to consider the resolution at a later date.
Other Bills of Interest
- 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. SB 171 passed the Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee with a vote of 9-0. It is pending a third reading and is supported by the BCA.
- SB 143 by Sen. Dan Roberts, R-Birmingham, and HB278 by Rep. A.J. McCampbell, D-Livingston. These bills would streamline the process of registering fleet vehicles. SB143 passed out of Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.
- SB 23 by Sen. Chris Elliot, R-Fairhope, would provide that the police jurisdiction of a municipality would include only property in the corporate limits of the municipality.
- SB 129 by Sen. Elliott would regulate the conduct of franchisors and their representatives in an effort to prevent fraud, unfair business practices, unfair methods of competition, impositions, and other abuses upon franchisees in the state.
- HB 183 by Rep. Rod Scott, D-Fairfield, and SB153 by Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, 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 149 by Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, would sunset the indexing provisions found in The Rebuild Alabama Act after 20 years.
- 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. The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee passed the bill by a vote of 9-1 on Tuesday.
- SB 244 by Sen. Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro, would prohibit local governing bodies from banning the use of plastic grocery bags.
Join Us for a Legislative Roundtable Discussion on Tuesday, April 9
The Business Council of Alabama’s Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a Legislative Roundtable Discussion on Tuesday, April 9 at 9:00 a.m. (please note the different start time).
This is an opportunity to hear from the members of the committee about your legislative priorities and bills of interest. The meeting will be in the first floor auditorium of the Business Center of Alabama, 2 North Jackson Street, Montgomery. Please email RSVP@bcatoday.org to let us know you’ll be there.
Mark Your Calendar – Tuesday, April 16
The BCA’s Governmental Affairs Committee Briefing will feature Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh on Tuesday, April 16. That meeting will begin at our usual start time of 8:30 a.m.
20thAnnual Manufacturer of the Year Awards
Please plan to join the BCA and the Alabama Technology Network on Wednesday, May 1 for the 20thannual Manufacturer of the Year Awards luncheon.
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.