Week 4 of the 2019 Session

This week the legislature used two legislative days that saw House passage of the General Fund budget with restored funding for the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) and Senate committee passage of an unemployment compensation reform bill as well as the economic developer exemption bill.

With nine legislative days complete, the Alabama House has filed 428 bills and the Senate 277. 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 hosted a Legislative Roundtable Discussion to hear about members’ legislative priorities and bills of interest.

Unemployment Compensation Bill Advances to Senate Floor

On Wednesday, the Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee voted 10-0 to pass the SB 193, by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur. The House companion bill is HB 364, by Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville.

Currently, if a person loses a job through no fault of their own, they are eligible to apply for 26 weeks of unemployment benefits.

SB 193 would set a variable rate for Alabama’s unemployment compensation, basing it on the state’s unemployment rate. This would allow a person to receive benefits for a longer duration during difficult economic times and a shorter duration during better times. The legislation also includes a five-week extension of benefits for anyone enrolled in a state-approved training program.

The bill increases the maximum weekly benefit 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 a estimated $45 million annual savings to Alabama employers.

General Fund Budget Advances with Restored Funding for ADEM

The General Fund Budget, HB 152, by Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, passed the House 103-0.  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).

Photo Credit: Dionne Whetstone, Alabama House of Representatives

Senate Committee Passes Economic Development Bill

HB 289, by Rep. Alan Baker, R-Brewton, passed out of the Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee by a vote of 8-1. 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.

Ethics Reform Bill Stalled in Senate

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.  After a lengthy discussion in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, stated the bill will be permanently carried over in his committee and is effectively dead this session. Learn more here.

Fleet Bill to be Debated Tuesday

HB 278, by Rep. A.J. McCampbell, D-Livingston, is a bill that would streamline the process of registering fleet vehicles by requiring the Department of Revenue to establish a fleet online tax system. It is scheduled to be debated on the House floor on Tuesday

Bills of Interest

  • HB 183, Rep. Rod Scott, D-Fairfield, and SB153 by Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, 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 unanimously out of the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee on Wednesday.
  • 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 9-4.
  • HB 100, by Rep. Jim Carnes, R-Vestavia Hills, is carrying a bill that would require plaintiffs in asbestos actions to file all available asbestos trust claims and produce all trust claims materials before trial.
  •  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. It is pending a third reading in the Senate.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Seven Candidates Qualify to Run for House District 74

Six Republicans and one Democrat have qualified to run for the special election in House District 74, which was vacated by the death of Rep. Dimitri Polizos, R-Montgomery.

The six candidates for the Republican nomination are Michael Fritz, Tobias Grant, Jesse Caleb Heifner, Jay King, Charlotte Meadows, and Daniel Sparkman.

Rayford Mack was the only Democrat to qualify.

The primary is June 11.

Governor Appoints ATRIP-II Committee Members

This week, Gov. Kay Ivey and legislative leaders appointed members of the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program-II Committee (ATRIP-II).

Committee members are Sens. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman, and Chris Elliott, R-Fairhope; Reps. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, Debbie Wood, R-Valley, and Steve Clouse, R-Ozark; and Choctaw County Commissioner Tony Cherry. Alabama Department of Transportation Director John Cooper serves as chair of the committee.

The ATRIP-II Committee was created by the Rebuild Alabama Act passed during the special session in March and will be responsible for evaluating local road and bridge projects funded by the ATRIP-II program.

Tuesday’s Briefing will feature Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh

Please join us next Tuesday, April 16 at 8:30 a.m. for the BCA’s Governmental Affairs Committee Briefing with Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh. Please email RSVP@bcatoday.org to let us know you’ll be there.

20thAnnual Manufacturer of the Year Awardswww.alabamamoty.org