The Legislature completed three session days and concluded its 21st legislative day this week. In what is believed to be one of the final weeks of the session, several bills made their way to the governor, including a bill to lower the age for commercial truck drivers.
By the end of the 21st legislative day, the Alabama House had filed 621 bills and the Senate 416 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. A.J. McCampbell, D-Gallion, who spoke about a number of his priorities, including education, Medicaid, and prison reform.
His full remarks were broadcast on Facebook Live. If you missed it, like us on Facebook and watch the video.
Tuesday Briefing with Rep. McCampbell
Posted by Business Council of Alabama on Tuesday, May 14, 2019
Coalition Commends Legislature for Passage of Bill to Lower the Age for Truck Drivers
The BCA 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 praised the members of the Alabama Legislature for passage of legislation to lower the age to 18 to obtain a commercial driver’s license. Read the full release here.
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, D-Abbeville, passed the Senate by a vote of 24-0. The House previously passed the bill by a vote of 96-1.
“It is a workforce development bill, plain and simple,” said BCA President and CEO Katie Boyd Britt. “This commonsense legislation will open the door of opportunity for young adults who are looking to find a good paying job, and at the same time, it addresses a dire need for Alabama businesses that rely on trucks to move their products. I applaud Rep. Grimsley and Sen. Chesteen for their leadership in this effort.”
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.
Read more here.
House to Debate Senate Lottery Proposal
After a public hearing last week, the House Economic Development and Tourism committee approved SB 220 a bill that would establish a state lottery. Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range, is the sponsor of the bill that passed the Senate. The House Committee approved a substitute for Albritton’s bill by Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, chairman of the House General Fund budget committee.
The committee added two amendments that would split future lottery proceeds between the General Fund and the Education Trust Fund and also provide a portion of the net proceeds to aid in compulsive gambling. It received a favorable report on a roll call vote.
Rep. Clouse sponsored the amendment which would give 75 percent of potential proceeds to the General Fund and the remaining 25 percent to the Education Trust Fund. Sen. Albritton’s bill split the money among the General Fund, a reserve account, and the Alabama Trust Fund.
The bill is expected to be considered in the House next week.
The proposal 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.
Unemployment Compensation Bill Headed to the Governor’s Desk
The House passed SB193, by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, on Wednesday with a vote of 74-26. This bill has been sent to Governor Ivey for her review and 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.
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 Senate with a vote of 30-0.
- 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 also received a favorable report with a vote of 11-0 by the Senate Education Policy Committee on Tuesday. On Wednesday, it passed the Senate 25-0 and received its first reading in the House. It was referred to the Ways and Means Education Committee.
- 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. After a lengthy debate on the Senate floor on Thursday, the bill was carried over.
- 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 is currently pending its third reading.
- 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 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. It is pending a third reading in the Senate.
- 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 received its first reading in the House and was referred to the State Government 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 its first reading in the House, it was referred the Ways and Means Education Committee.
- 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 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. It received its first reading in the Senate and was referred to the Education Policy Committee.
- 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. After passing the Senate 31-0, it passed out of the House Transportation, Utilities, and Infrastructure Committee and is awaiting its third reading.
- 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.
- 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, passed the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee on Wednesday. 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.
Tuesday’s Briefing to Feature Rep. Steve Clouse
Please join us next Tuesday, May 21 at 8:30 a.m. for the BCA’s Governmental Affairs Committee Briefing with Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, chairman of the House Ways and Means General Fund Budget Committee.
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. Clouse’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.