Week 6 of the 2019 Session

With more than one-third of the 2019 legislative session in the books, week 6 saw both bills to lower the age for truck drivers advance and the Senate passed a lottery bill and an unemployment compensation bill.

The Alabama House had filed 502 bills and the Senate 329 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 Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro. His remarks were broadcast on Facebook Live. If you missed it, like us on Facebook and watch the video.

Senate Passes Lottery Bill

The Senate on Thursday voted 21-12 to pass SB 220 by Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Atmore, a bill to establish a paper-based lottery.

The bill is a constitutional amendment that Alabama voters would have to approve in the March 3, 2020 presidential primary. Because it is a proposed constitutional amendment, it requires a three-fifths vote in each chamber.

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 in the bill passed by the Senate.

The proceeds from a lottery would go to the General Fund. As the Montgomery Advertiser reports, “The Legislative Services Agency estimates the lottery when fully implemented would bring in $167 million a year.  Half would go to the General Fund, with 25 percent going to a reserve fund for the General Fund until that fund reaches 10 percent of the current levels, then it would go to the Alabama Trust Fund. Remaining proceeds would go to a fund to help transition the method in which the state budgets.”

The bill now heads to the House of Representatives.

Bills to Lower Age for Truck Drivers Introduced, Will Create Jobs and Make Businesses More Competitive

Bills 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 passed out of their respective House and Senate committees. Currently, Alabama is one of only two states that restricts a Class A commercial driver’s license to those who are 21 years or older. SB318, by Sen. Donnie Chesteen, R-Geneva, was referred the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee. After a technical amendment was added, it received a favorable report of 13-0 and is pending its third reading.  The House companion bill, HB479, by Rep. Dexter Grimsley, R-Abbeville, is also pending a third reading in the House after passing out of the House Transportation, Utilities, and Infrastructure Committee unanimously on a voice vote.

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. The legislation 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.

At the federal level, Congress is considering the DRIVE Safe Act, which will allow individuals at age 18 to obtain a commercial driver’s license and drive a truck and trailer combo in excess of 26,000 lbs. across state lines.

Unemployment Compensation Bills Advance in Both Chambers

SB193, by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, passed the Senate on a 29-2 vote. It received its first reading in the House where it was referred to the House Commerce and Small Business Committee. The companion bill,  HB364, by Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, received a favorable report in the House Commerce and Small Business Committee and it is pending a third reading.

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

The legislation 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 an estimated $45 million annual savings to Alabama employers.

Fleet Bill Passes House

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 received a favorable report from the Senate Government Affairs Committee on Tuesday and is pending its third reading. If it passes the Senate, it will go to Governor Ivey for her signature.

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Bills of Interest

  • HB 183, 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 this week.
  • 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. A substitute bill was adopted and favorably reported by the House Committee on Urban and Rural Development on Thursday and will now go before the full House for consideration.
  • 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 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.
  • HB 352, by Rep. Connie Rowe, R-Jasper, would place regulations on franchisors in an effort to prevent fraud and unfair business competition. Also known as the Protect Alabama Small Business Act, HB 352 received a public hearing before the House Commerce and Small Business Committee on Wednesday but it did not receive a vote.
  • 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.
  • SB23, 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. The bill passed the Senate last week and has been referred to the House Committee on County and Municipal Government.
  • SB129, 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. It passed the Senate Government Affairs Committee by a vote of 9-1.
  • SB71, 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.
  • 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 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. Under existing law, there are no economic incentives extended 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. The bill passed the Senate earlier this month and has been referred to the House Ways and Means Education Committee.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 on Tuesday.
  • HB 388, by Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, would implement steps to improve the reading proficiency of public school kindergarten to 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, now heads to the House floor after passing the House Education Policy Committee on Thursday.
  • SB 236, by Sen Tim Melson, R- Florence, will create the 9-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 4, by Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, known as permit-less carry gun bill, was originally in the Senate Judiciary Committee but was rereferred to the Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee. It failed on a 6-5 vote and effectively killed the bill for this session. The bill would repeal the requirement to have a permit to carry a concealed handgun.

Tuesday’s Briefing to feature House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter

Please join us next Tuesday, April 30 at 8:30 a.m. for the BCA’s Governmental Affairs Committee Briefing with House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville. Please email RSVP@bcatoday.org to let us know you’ll be there. 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. Leadbetter’s briefing on Facebook Live for anyone who’s unable to attend. Find us on facebook and tune in.

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.