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Week Six of the 2020 Session

SENATOR SINGLETON: FOLLOWING SPRING BREAK, WE WILL FINISH STRONG WITH A GREAT SESSION

BCA was excited to welcome Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton to Tuesday’s Governmental Affairs Briefing. Senator Singleton updated attendees on a number of topics that will likely be addressed after the legislative spring break.

His first topic of discussion was the renewal of the Alabama Jobs Act. Senator Singleton shared that he and his legislative colleagues are working with the Department of Commerce on ways this economic incentive can be improved and feels like they are getting close to a finished product. In particular, he is in favor of a new component that places a stronger emphasis on incentives for rural communities across the state.

As a member of the state’s Coronavirus Task Force, Senator Singleton informed the group that the public can expect a number of press conferences in coming days where state officials will share information on the state of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Alabama. At the time of his comments, the Coronavirus Task Force had met twice in the last 72 hours. He assured the group that there are test kits in the state, and more are on the way via the federal government as a part of the large aid package recently passed by Congress.

The senator also shared insight on additional pieces of legislation that will likely be addressed during the remainder of the session which included gaming, a lottery, criminal justice reform, educational technology improvements and other important topics.

Lastly, Senator Singleton reminded everyone to participate in the 2020 Census. He emphasized the importance of an accurate count for the state of Alabama, connecting the number of citizens to the number of congressional seats and federal dollars allocated to our state.

Introducing Senator Singleton was Sarah Beth Wilcox representing Brasfield and Gorrie, LLC, one of the nation’s largest privately held contracting firms and a member of BCA. The Huntsville Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Tommy Battle, Mayor Paul Finley, and Chairman of the Madison County Commission Dale Strong were also in attendance.

Senator Singleton’s remarks were broadcast on BCA’s Facebook page via Facebook Live. Watch below if you missed it, and be sure to like us on Facebook so you don’t miss future live broadcasts.

GOVERNOR IVEY SIGNS TWO BCA PRIORITY BILLS

The Alabama Legislature completed its eleventh and twelfth legislative working days this week which resulted in several BCA bills of interest receiving committee and chamber approval. The most notable successes of the week came when Governor Kay Ivey signed into law two BCA-supported bills, HB 140 and HB 158. You will find these two bills highlighted below, along with a list of notable bills BCA’s governmental affairs team focused on:

BCA Supports

  • HB 140 – by Rep. Alan Baker (R-Brewton), which received final passage from the Legislature last week, was signed by the Governor on Wednesday. This bill will clarify existing law and the definition of “cover” as it relates to alternative cover for solid waste landfills. The EPA and ADEM have adopted rules allowing the use of alternative cover to permit Alabama landfills to use other means of daily cover on city, county, and private landfills. Prior to the rule, the daily cover required was six inches of earth each day which is extremely costly in terms of both money and space. This legislation takes a current regulated practice and places it into law in Alabama.
  • HB 158 – by Rep. Paul Lee (R-Dothan), which received final passage from the Legislature last week, was signed by the Governor on Wednesday. This legislation will prohibit private auditing or collecting firms working on behalf of state or local governments from recovering certain costs from a taxpayer. These prohibited costs will include travel expenses, auditing or collecting-related costs, salary or personnel-related expenses, or professional services fees.
  • HB 109 – by Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, known as the Alabama Research and Development Act, would implement a research and development tax credit for qualified research conducted in Alabama. This R&D tax credit would be limited to $25 million for research and development expenses in a calendar year and no eligible company could claim more than 20 percent of the credits in a single tax year.
  • HB 341 – by Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville), passed the House chamber on Thursday by a vote of 102-0 and now goes to the Senate. This bill would establish mental health service coordinators in public schools and require each local board of education to employ at least one mental health service coordinator in its jurisdiction.
  • SB 45 – by Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster), passed the Senate chamber by a vote of 28-3 and now goes to the House. This bill would further provide for the crime of unauthorized entry of a critical infrastructure by prohibiting the operation of an unmanned aircraft system, or drone, to photographically or electronically record a critical infrastructure except under certain conditions.
  • SB 322 – by Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster), is a priority bill for BCA and would amend a law passed last year regarding call centers that decide to relocate. This bill would require only call centers that have received economic development incentives from the state to notify the Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce of plans to relocate its operations. This bill would also limit the amount of civil penalties assessed under the previous law. This bill was filed in the Senate on Thursday and now awaits committee approval.

BCA Opposes

  • SB 236 and HB 345 – by Sen. Tom Butler (R-Madison) and Rep. Ron Johnson (R-Sylacauga), would prohibit pharmacy benefits managers and health benefit plans from transferring and sharing certain patient information with certain affiliates of the pharmacy benefits manager. This bill would also prohibit a health benefit plan from requiring an insured to obtain pharmacist services, including prescription drugs, exclusively from a mail-order pharmaceutical distributor or affiliated pharmacy. If enacted, this legislation would result in increased drug costs for employers, employees and the state. These pieces of legislation did not advance this week and await committee review in their respective chambers.
  • SB 107 – by Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), would require businesses of any size to submit an affidavit to the Secretary of State proving they use E-Verify in accordance with federal immigration regulations. This would need to be submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office before a business could receive a business license or permit from a county or municipality. It would also make it a crime to submit a false or misleading affidavit. A substitute bill was adopted by the Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee on Wednesday and now awaits action on the Senate floor. The BCA team is currently evaluating the substitute bill.
  • HB 206 and SB 170 – by Rep. Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa) and Sen. Roger Smitherman (D-Birmingham), would provide for the creation and enforcement of non-disparagement obligations in contracts. These pieces of legislation did not advance this week and await committee review in their respective chambers.
  • HB 93 – by Rep. Ron Johnson (R-Sylacauga), would enact the Digital Fair Repair Act. This would provide for the repair of digital electronic equipment by persons other than the manufacturer or an authorized repair provider of the manufacturer. This bill would require an original equipment manufacturer to make parts available, for purposes of diagnosis, maintenance, or repair, to any independent repair provider. This legislation did not advance this week and awaits committee review in the House.
  • HB 266 – by Rep. Shane Stringer (R-Citronelle), would prohibit health benefit plans, life insurers, and long-term care insurers from using an individual’s genetic information to determine insurance rates. This legislation did not advance this week and awaits committee review in the House.

BCA Will Monitor

  • SB 165 – by Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence), known as the Compassion Act, passed the Senate floor by a vote of 22-10. This bill would authorize the use of medical marijuana in Alabama by requiring patients to obtain a medical marijuana card from a doctor to treat certain medical conditions included in the legislation. A business-friendly amendment was added to the legislation in committee which provides business protection provisions and worker’s compensation provisions in order to ensure the potential law does not expose the business community to additional civil liability.
  • SB 250 and HB 353 – by Sen. Dan Roberts (R-Mountain Brook) and Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville), would reduce the corporate income tax and financial institution excise tax rates from 6.5% to 4.75%, while simultaneously repealing the federal income tax deduction. These bills would also convert the existing double-weighted sales factor apportionment formula that most corporations use to a single sales factor. A public hearing was held by the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee on Wednesday to discuss this legislation, but a vote was not taken.
  • SB 172 – by Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), would allow wireless providers to install small-cell wireless facilities on existing poles, or install new poles on the right-of-way of a government entity. This bill has passed the Senate chamber and now awaits committee approval in the House.
  • SB 216 – by Sen. Tom Whatley (R-Auburn), would allow for the purchase of construction materials and supplies for highway, road and bridge projects to be exempted from sales and use taxes. Currently, a licensed contractor that enters into a contract with a government entity to undertake a project does not have to pay sales and use tax on construction materials and supplies for that project. The current law pertains to all construction contracts entered into by government entities, with the exclusion of highway, road and bridge projects. SB 216 would remove that exclusion. This legislation did not advance this week and awaits committee review in the Senate.

LEGISLATURE MOVES BIG ISSUES LEADING INTO SPRING BREAK

The Legislature wrapped up its sixth week of the legislative session and will now be taking a spring break hiatus which potentially could last two weeks. Both chambers passed bills of significance and numerous bills were approved by House and Senate committees. Additionally, two different lottery bills were filed in the Legislature, one in the House and one in the Senate.

Below is a list of notable bills that were filed or received legislative action this week:

  • A bill was filed in the House that proposes a constitutional amendment to establish a lottery in Alabama. The revenue received from the lottery, estimated at $167 million a year, would be split between the state’s voluntary Pre-K program and higher education scholarships.
  • A Senate version of a lottery bill was also filed which proposes a constitutional amendment to establish a lottery in Alabama and enter into a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians for the allowance of operating casino-style games in the state.
  • The House passed several bills dealing with the issue of mental health in Alabama as it relates to mental health service coordinators in public schools and mental health response training for law enforcement.
  • Several bills related to the Legislature’s prison reform efforts received committee approval. These bills focused on issues such as education or certification programs offered to inmates while they are incarcerated and offering tax credits to employers who hire former inmates.

The House gave final legislative approval to a pro-military bill allowing military families to use their PCS orders as proof of residence in order to enroll in one of Alabama’s virtual schools.

REMINDER: NO BRIEFING ON TUESDAY DUE TO LEGISLATIVE SPRING BREAK

Please note there will not be a BCA Governmental Affairs Committee Briefing held on Tuesday, March 17th due to the legislative spring break.

Be on the lookout for future communications regarding the date and time of the next BCA Governmental Affairs Committee Briefing.

If you have any questions regarding the legislative session, please contact BCA’s Senior Vice President for Governmental Affairs David Cole, BCA’s Vice President for Governmental Affairs Molly Cagle, or BCA’s Director for Governmental and Regulatory Affairs Drew Harrell.


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