With more than one-third of the 2019 legislative session in the books, week 7 saw Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, appointed chairman of the Joint Transportation Committee, House passage of a bill to lower the driving age for a commercial driver’s license, and the unemployment compensation bill moves one step closer to the governor’s desk.
The Alabama House had filed 564 bills and the Senate 377 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 House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville. His remarks were broadcast on Facebook Live. If you missed it, like us on Facebook and watch the video.
Alabama Manufacturer Of The Year Awards
The Business Council of Alabama and the Alabama Technology Network announced the 2019 Manufacturer of The Year (MOTY) winners during an awards luncheon ceremony at the Alabama Activity Center on Wednesday, May 1.
The winners of the large, medium, and small manufacturer categories are respectively: ZF Chassis Systems in Tuscaloosa, Milo’s Tea Company in Bessemer, and OnPoint Manufacturing in Florence.
The MOTY awards recognize Alabama’s manufacturing enterprises that exhibit excellence in leadership, performance, profitability, and workforce relations. Winners are selected by an independent panel of judges based on demonstrations of superior performance in customer focus, employee commitment, operating excellence, continuous improvement, profitable growth, and investment in training and retraining.
“The purpose of the annual Manufacturer of the Year Awards is to shine a spotlight on manufacturing excellence and to give those who have invested in Alabama the acknowledgement and promotion they deserve.” said Katie Boyd Britt, president and CEO of the BCA. “Quite simply, this is an opportunity for the business community to say, ‘job well done!’ to some of Alabama’s most successful industries.”
The full list of the Manufacturers of the Year finalists in the large, medium, and small manufacturer categories were: Kamtek in Birmingham, Milo’s Tea Company in Bessemer, OnPoint Manufacturing in Florence, Specification Rubber Products in Alabaster, Thermo Fisher Scientific in Auburn, and ZF Chassis Systems in Tuscaloosa.
Sen. Gerald Allen selected as chair of Joint Transportation Committee
This week the members of the Joint Transportation Committee unanimously selected state Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, as chairman.
As part of the accountability and oversight measures that were included in the Rebuild Alabama Act, the Joint Transportation Committee was created to oversee the Rebuild Alabama fund and the Alabama Department of Transportation’s Statewide Transportation Improvement Program.
The Joint Transportation Committee is comprised of 12 state representatives and 12 state senators with a House and Senate member from each of Alabama’s seven congressional districts and the five ALDOT regions.
The 24 Joint Transportation Committee members are:
State Sens. Chris Elliott, R-Daphne; Donnie Chesteen, R-Geneva; Tom Whatley, R-Auburn; Clay Scofield, R-Guntersville; Arthur Orr, R-Decatur; Cam Ward, R-Alabaster; Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa; Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills; Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro; Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville; David Sessions, R-Mobile; and Tom Butler, R-Madison.
State Reps. Margie Wilcox, R-Mobile; Dexter Grimsley, D-Abbeville; Ginny Shaver, R-Leesburg; Kerry Rich, R-Guntersville; Laura Hall, D-Huntsville; Corley Ellis, R-Columbiana; A.J. McCampbell, D-Livingston; K.L. Brown, R-Jacksonville; Rich Wingo, R-Tuscaloosa; Chris Sells, R-Greenville; Alan Baker, R-Brewton; and Randall Shedd, R-Fairview.
You can read more here.
House Passes 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 passed the House by a vote of 96-1 on Tuesday.
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. The House bill, HB479, by Rep. Dexter Grimsley, R-Abbeville, passed the House Transportation, Utilities, and Infrastructure Committee unanimously on a voice vote last week.
The Senate companion bill, SB318, by Sen. Donnie Chesteen, R-Geneva, was referred the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee. After a technical amendment was added last week, it received a favorable report of 13-0 and is pending its third reading.
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 Bill One Step Away from Governor’s Desk
The House Commerce and Small Business Committee passed SB193, by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, on Wednesday. After having passed the Senate last week, it’s just one step away from going to the governor for her signature.
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.
Senate passes $7.1 billion Education Trust Fund budget
The Senate passed SB 199, by Sen. Arthur Orr , R-Decatur, the Education Trust Fund budget by a vote of 28-2. The $7.1 billion budget contains many issues 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 years budget to $123 million;
- A 4% pay raise for teachers, which raised the starting teacher salary to above $40,000 for the first time;
- A $1 million increase to the dual enrollment Scholarship Program;
- An increase of $10.5 million to the Alabama Reading Initiative, rising from $45 million to $55.3 million in 2020;
- Four-year colleges would go up by $73.9 million, to $1.2 billion, about a 6.6 percent increase;
- The Research and Development Grant Program received $8 million for the first time;
- The Rural Broadband Grant Program received $20 million for the first time.
On such a historic budget passing the Senate, Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, released the following statement:
“This is the largest education budget in state history, thanks to fiscally conservative practices over the past several years, we are able to budget over $7 billion toward public education in Alabama. Overall this is an excellent budget, we were able to provide educators with a 4% pay raise and increase money for our teacher’s professional development and classroom supplies. We were even able to fully fund transportation for the first time since 2008.”
“In addition, we are making a multi-million dollar investment in rural broadband. Internet connectivity is a major issue in our rural areas and impacts everything from education to economic development. Children now rely on the internet both at school and at home and our goal is to make sure that children in rural areas have the same educational opportunities as those in more urban areas.”
“I want to thank Senator Orr and his staff, as well as the members of the education budget committee for their commitment to crafting a sensible, fiscally responsible spending plan, every Senator should be proud of this budget and the support it provides for our teachers and students.”
Bills of Interest
- 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 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 and passed the House today.
- 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 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 its first reading in the Senate, it has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
- 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 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.
- SB129, by Sen. Chris Elliott, R-Fairhope, 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 and is currently pending its third reading.
- 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. 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. After receiving a favorable report with a vote of 10-0, 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. The bill passed the Senate earlier this month and has been referred to the House Ways and Means Education Committee.
- 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 has passed the House Ways and Means Education Trust Fund Committee and is pending its third reading.
- 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. 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 held.
- 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.
- 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 236 received a favorable report of the Senate Judiciary by a vote of 6-2-3 and is pending its third reading.
Tuesday’s Briefing to feature Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed
Please join us next Tuesday, May 7 at 8:30 a.m. for the BCA’s Governmental Affairs Committee Briefing with Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed, R-Jasper. 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 Sen. Reed’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.