Contributed by Beth Marietta Lyons
Lyons Law Firm
The Alabama Legislature convened in Session for Day 18 of the annual Regular Session on Tuesday, April 18, held 24 committee meetings throughout the week, and convened in Session on Thursday for Day 19.
There have been 944 bills introduced to date.
The Legislature will return to Montgomery on Tuesday, April 25 for Legislative Day 20 of the Session with the House convening at 1:00 p.m. and the Senate convening at 2:00 p.m.
During the Week
Representative Jack Williams announced that he will run in 2018 for Senate District 34 which is currently held by Senator Rusty Glover who has announced he will run for Lt. Governor.
Governor Ivey scheduled a Special Election for the US Senate seat previously held by Jeff Sessions and currently held by Luther Strange who was appointed by Governor Bentley in February of this year. Former Governor Bentley had originally scheduled the election to coincide with the regular 2018 election cycle. Candidates must qualify by May 17 for the Primary Election that will now be held August 15. A run- off, if necessary, will be held September 26 and the General Election will be December 12.
The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the Alabama Court of the Judiciary’s decision to suspend Chief Justice Roy Moore for the remainder of his term. The Court of the Judiciary had suspended Moore after finding him guilty of six charges of violation of the Canons of Judicial Ethics.
Representative Johnny Mack Morrow introduced a Resolution condemning the actions of Rebekah Mason, the former Senior Political Advisor for former Governor Robert Bentley, and calling for a criminal investigation of Ms. Mason by the Attorney General. After a failed attempt to immediately suspend the rules and consider the resolution, the resolution was referred to the House Rules Committee.
Significant Floor Action this Week
The House passed a bill that would reestablish the income tax credit, which expired in 2016, for the rehabilitation, preservation or development of certified historic structures. The bill now goes to the Senate [HB345 by Representative Victor Gaston].
The House passed a bill that would require health benefit plans to offer coverage for the treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder for a child age nine or under for certain group insurance plans and contracts. The bill now goes to the Senate [HB284 by Representative Jim Patterson].
The House passed a Senate bill that would require students to pass a 100 question civics test, with certain exemptions, before graduating from high school or obtaining a high school equivalency diploma. The bill now goes to the Governor [SB32 by Senator Arthur Orr].
The House passed a bill that would exempt fantasy sports contests from the prohibition against gambling and provide for regulation and registration of operators. The bill now goes to the Senate [HB354 by Representative Alan Boothe].
The House passed a bill that would remove certain exemptions from licensure for child care facilities that are part of a church or nonprofit religious school, require state inspections, criminal history records on employees and maintenance of the immunization records on all children, and licensure if state or federal funds are received for children in the facility. The bill now goes to the Senate [HB277 by Representative Pebblin Warren].
The Senate passed a bill that, as introduced, would have allowed capital defendants to choose to be executed by firing squad, rather than lethal injection or electrocution, but was amended to offer execution by nitrogen hypoxia instead of a firing squad. The bill now goes to the House [SB12 by Senator Trip Pittman].
The Senate passed a bill that would allow a person to carry a pistol without a pistol permit on property under his or her control, including vehicles and places of business. The bill now goes to the House [SB24 by Senator Gerald Allen].
The Senate amended and passed a House bill, known as the “Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act,” that would prohibit the state from taking adverse action against an adoption agency that declines to place a child in a situation that conflicts with its religious beliefs. The bill now returns to the House for action on the Senate amendment [HB24 by Representative Rich Wingo].
The Senate amended and passed a House proposed Constitutional Amendment that would support the rights of unborn children, namely the right to life, and would specify that the Constitution does not protect the right to abortion or require the funding of abortion. The bill now returns to the House for action on the Senate amendments [HB98 by Representative Matt Fridy].
The Senate passed a House bill that would authorize health care providers to decline to perform services that violate their consciences. The bill now goes to the Governor [HB95 by Representative Arnold Mooney].
The Senate amended and passed a House bill, known as the “Assisted Suicide Ban Act,” that would prohibit a person or health care provider from providing aid in dying to another person. The bill now returns to the House for action on the Senate amendment [HB96 by Representative Mack Butler].
Significant Committee Action This Week
The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee gave a favorable report to a House bill that would allow certain correctional officers and public safety officers to retire with full benefits after 25 years of service. The bill now goes to the full Senate [HB326 by Representative Randy Wood].
The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee gave a favorable report to a Senate bill that would allow the Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham to employ police officers under certain conditions. The bill now goes to the full House [SB193 by Senator Jabo Waggoner].
The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee held a public hearing, but did not vote, on a bill that would create an exception that would allow the surviving spouse of a law enforcement officer, firefighter, rescue squad member, or certain volunteer firefighters killed in the line of duty to continue to receive benefits for life, even after remarriage, and would extend benefits to a surviving minor child until the age of majority [HB340 by Representative Matt Fridy].
The House Judiciary committee gave a favorable report to a Senate bill that would abolish the requirement that a marriage license be issued by the judge of probate; instead the marriage would be entered into by contract which would be recorded with the judge of probate following execution. The bill now goes to the full House [SB20 by Senator Greg Albritton].
The Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development committee gave a favorable report, following a public hearing, on a bill that would allow a currently licensed wine producer, supplier, importer, wholesaler, distributor or retailer to obtain a wine direct shipper license to allow the shipment of limited quantities of wine to Alabama residents. The bill now goes to the full Senate [SB329 by Senator Bill Holtzclaw].
The Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee held a public hearing, but did not vote, on a bill that would disallow the markup voted on by the Alcoholic Beverages Control Board in March and would require legislative approval for further markups [SB323 by Senator Bill Holtzclaw].
The House County and Municipal Government Committee gave a favorable report to a bill that would exempt certain home health care providers who do not maintain an office within a municipality or county from purchasing a municipal or county business license. The bill now goes to the full House [HB441 by Representative Ron Johnson].
The House Judiciary Committee gave a favorable report to a bill that would provide enhanced criminal penalties for assault if the victim of the crime was a public safety officer. The bill now goes to the full House [HB237 by Representative Phillip Pettus].
The House Agriculture and Forestry Committee amended and gave a favorable report to a Senate bill that would increase the maximum income tax credit for the purchase and installation of irrigation equipment and for the conversion of irrigation equipment from fuel to electricity or for qualified reservoirs. The bill now goes to the full House [SB257 by Senator Arthur Orr].
The House Agriculture and Forestry Committee gave a favorable report to a Senate bill that would authorize counties to establish an agriculture authority to promote agricultural businesses, operations, commodities, workforce development and economic development within the county. The bill now goes to the full House [SB345 by Senator Tim Melson].
The House Commerce and Small Business Committee gave a favorable report to a bill that would modify the Uniform Condominium Act to further specify the rights of the developer and rights of the unit owner with regard to a condominium that is part of a condominium association. The bill now goes to the full House [SB283 by Senator Rodger Smitherman].
The Senate Judiciary Committee amended and gave a favorable report to a House bill that would allow a church to establish a security program with armed personnel for the protection of the congregation of the church. The bill now goes to the full Senate [HB36 by Representative Lynn Greer].
The Senate Judiciary Committee gave a favorable report to a House bill that would expand the expungement of criminal records to include all felony charges when the person has been found not guilty of the charges. The bill now goes to the full Senate [HB279 by Representative Alan Baker].
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a public hearing, but did not vote, on a House bill that would limit a ticket issuer’s use of a nontransferable ticketing system to allow for the ticket buyer to resell the ticket [HB265 by Representative Paul Lee].
The Senate Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee gave a favorable report to a bill that would provide that a municipality would be responsible for half of the housing, maintenance and medical care expenses of a child under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court if the child resides in a municipality with a specified population and to provide that the law enforcement agency in whose custody a child is initially held or detained is responsible for all transportation costs. The bill now goes to the full Senate [SB324 by Senator Phil Williams].
The Senate Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee gave a favorable report to a bill that would allow for the sale of alcoholic beverages for off-premises consumption in a specified community development district. The bill now goes to the full Senate [SB336 by Senator Steve Livingston].
The House Education Policy Committee amended and gave a favorable report to a bill that would amend the Alabama School Choice and Student Opportunity Act to require the state Department of Education to annually publish a list of registered local authorizers of public charter schools, allow an applicant to apply directly to the Alabama Public Charter School Commission, and allow local funding to be allocated to Charter Schools. The bill now goes to the full House [HB245 by Representative Terri Collins].
The House Mobile County Legislation Committee met and gave favorable reports to the following bill:
- A bill that would grant to any Class 2 municipality the authority to enact by ordinance provisions for enforcement of local and state building regulations for the maintenance of structures; provide for a judicial in rem foreclosure on non-owner occupied properties; and provide for recovery of taxpayer costs and transfer of title to property under certain circumstances [HB430 by Representative Barbara Drummond];
- A bill that would delete the requirement that certain sales of property and leases by the Mobile County School Board be approved by the Judge of Probate [HB389 by Representative Chris Pringle];
- A bill that would repeal Act No. 82-675, 1982 1st Special Session, and Act No. 88-423, 1988 Regular Session, providing supplemental funding for certain salaries and expenses for the office of the District Attorney of the 13th Judicial Circuit in Mobile County [SB289 by Senator Rusty Glover].
The bills now go to the full House.
Significant Introductions This Week
A bill was introduced in the House that would prohibit the Mobile County Health Department from regulating or requiring a permit for intermittent food service establishments that otherwise do not prepare, sell, or distribute food in the regular line of business when that food service establishment prepares or distributes food in association with a regional celebratory event or custom. The bill is pending in the House Mobile County Legislation Committee [HB528 by Representative Margie Wilcox].
A bill was introduced in the House that would make genital mutilation of a female under the age of 19 a Class B felony. The bill is pending in the House Judiciary Committee [HB537 by Representative Rod Scott].
A bill was introduced in the House that would substantially revise the provisions governing the operation of the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts, revise the qualifications of the chief examiner and revise and clarify certain duties of the department. The bill is pending in the House State Government Committee [HB540 by Representative Chris Pringle].
A proposed Constitutional Amendment was introduced in the House that would provide a procedure for the recall of the Governor, Lt. Governor, State Treasurer, State Auditor and Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries, and provide for the grounds for recall. The bill is pending in the House Constitution, Campaigns and Elections Committee [HB544 by Representative Will Ainsworth].
A bill was introduced in the Senate that would repeal the Alabama New Markets Development Act effective January 1, 2018. The bill is pending in the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee [SB377 by Senator Del Marsh].
A bill was introduced in the Senate that would authorize a county commission to call for a referendum on the levy of an excise tax on gasoline and motor fuel for specific road and bridge projects identified by the county prior to the referendum. The bill is pending in the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee [SB386 by Senator Arthur Orr].
A bill was introduced in the Senate that would provide that a county paying for medical services for a prison in the county jail may not be charged an amount that exceeds the rates and fees established under the federal Medicare program under certain conditions. The bill is pending in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee [SB388 by Senator Tim Melson].
A bill was introduced in both Houses that would further provide for the Alabama Transportation Infrastructure Bank to authorize additional tax revenue to be pledged to pay and secure revenue bonds issued by the bank, to add provisions relating to the granting of other financial assistance and specify that the bank would be a non-profit corporation [HB530 by Representative Margie Wilcox and SB385 by Representative Arthur Orr].
The General Fund Budget, HB155 sponsored by Rep. Clouse, has passed the House and is pending in the Senate Finance & Taxation General Fund Committee.
The Education Trust Fund Budget, SB129 sponsored by Sen. Orr, has passed the Senate and is pending in the House Ways & Means Education Committee.
- Bills Introduced: 944
- Bills that have passed their house of origin: 315
- Bills that have passed both houses: 77
- Bills that are pending the Governor’s signature: 15
- Bills that have been vetoed: 0
- Constitutional Amendments Pending Referendum: 2
- Bills Enacted: 60
Tuberville calls for term limits, balanced budget and lobbying reform
Tuberville has also made a major media buy across the state to trumpet this message.
Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville’s campaign began emphasizing key structural reforms that the Republican nominee hopes to advance if elected to the U.S. Senate including congressional term limits, withholding lawmakers’ paychecks unless a balanced budget is passed and a ban on former officials becoming lobbyists.
“Only an outsider like me can help President Trump drain the Swamp, and any of the proposals outlined in this ad will begin the process of pulling the plug,” Tuberville said in a statement. “Doug Jones has had his chance, and he failed our state, so now it’s time to elect a senator who will work to fundamentally change the way that Washington operates.”
Tuberville has also made a major media buy across the state to trumpet this message.
“You know Washington politicians could learn a lot from the folks in small town Alabama, but Doug Jones … he’s too liberal to teach them,” Tuberville added.
Polls consistently show that term limits are popular with people across both political parties, but the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that imposing term limits would be adding a qualification to be a member of Congress and that can only be done by constitutional amendment.
It is an unspoken truth that when Americans send someone to Congress they never come back. They either keep getting re-elected like Alabama’s own Sen. Richard Shelby, who is in his sixth term in the Senate after four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. On the other hand, they may become lobbyists getting paid to influence their colleagues on behalf of corporations, foreign governments or some well funded non-government organization.
Tuberville said he would ban that practice.
A balanced budget amendment almost passed in the 1980s and again in the 1990s.
Since that failure, Congress has increasingly passed bigger and bigger budget deficits. The U.S. government borrowed more money during the eight years of President George W. Bush’s presidency than the government had borrowed in the first 224 years of the country combined.
President Barack Obama followed and the TARP program propped up the post-Great Recession economy. Rather than cutting the deficit, President Donald Trump invested billions in the military and a tax cut without cutting domestic spending. The 2020 coronavirus crisis has further grown the budget.
The government has borrowed trillions to prop up the economy and provide stimulus while investing billions into medical research and treating the virus victims. Congress is currently debating a fifth stimulus package that would add more to the deficit.
Both a balanced budget amendment and a term limits amendment would have to be ratified by the states if passed by Congress. Tuberville is challenging incumbent Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama.
House passes General Fund Budget
By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The Alabama House of Representatives passed the state General Fund Budget on Tuesday.
The General Fund Budget for the 2019 fiscal year is Senate Bill 178. It is sponsored by Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose. State Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, carried the budget on the House floor. Clouse chairs the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee.
Clouse said, “Last year we monetized the BP settlement money and held over $97 million to this year.”
Clouse said that the state is still trying to come up with a solution to the federal lawsuit over the state prisons. The Governor’s Office has made some progress after she took over from Gov. Robert Bentley. The supplemental we just passed added $30 million to prisons.
The budget adds $50 million to the Department of Corrections.
Clouse said that the budget increased the money for prisons by $55,680,000 and includes $4.8 million to buy the privately-owned prison facility in Perry County.
Clouse said that the budget raises funding for the judicial system and raises the appropriation for the Forensic Sciences to $11.7 million.
The House passed a committee substitute so the Senate is either going to have to concur with the changes made by the House or a conference committee will have to be appointed. Clouse told reporters that he hoped that it did not have to go to conference.
Clouse said that the budget had added $860,000 to hire more Juvenile Probation Officers. After talking to officials with the court system that was cut in half in the amendment. The amendment also includes some wording the arbiters in the court lawsuit think we need.
The state General Fund Budget, SB178, passed 98-1.
Both budgets have now passed the Alabama House of Representatives.
The 2019 fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, 2018.
In addition to the SGF, the House also passed a supplemental appropriation for the current 2018 budget year. SB175 is also sponsored by Pittman and was carried by Clouse on the floor of the House.
SB175 includes $30 million in additional 2018 money for the Department of Corrections. The Departmental Emergency Fund, the Examiners of Public Accounts, the Insurance Department and Forensic Sciences received additional money.
Clouse said, “We knew dealing with the federal lawsuit was going to be expensive. We are adding $80 million to the Department of Corrections.”
State Representative Johnny Mack Morrow, R-Red Bay, said that state Department of Forensics was cut from $14 million to $9 million. “Why are we adding money for DA and courts if we don’t have money for forensics to provide evidence? if there is any agency in law enforcement or the court system that should be funded it is Forensics.”
The supplemental 2018 appropriation passed 80 to 1.
The House also passed SB203. It was sponsored by Pittman and was carried in the House by State Rep. Ken Johnson, R-Moulton. It raises securities and registration fees for agents and investment advisors. It increases the filing fees for certain management investment companies. Johnson said that those fees had not been adjusted since 2009.
The House also passed SB176, which is an annual appropriation for the Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The bill requires that the agency have an operations plan, audited financial statement, and quarterly and end of year reports. SB176 is sponsored by Pittman and was carried on the House floor by State Rep. Elaine Beech, D-Chatham.
The House passed Senate Bill 185 which gives state employees a cost of living increase in the 2019 budget beginning on October 1. It was sponsored by Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville and was being carried on the House floor by state Rep. Dimitri Polizos, R-Montgomery.
Polizos said that this was the first raise for non-education state employees in nine years. It is a 3 percent raise.
SB185 passed 101-0.
Senate Bill 215 gives retired state employees a one time bonus check. SB215 is sponsored by Senator Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, and was carried on the House floor by state Rep. Kerry Rich, R-Guntersville.
Rich said that retired employees will get a bonus $1 for every month that they worked for the state. For employees who retired with 25 years of service that will be a $300 one time bonus. A 20-year retiree would get $240 and a 35-year employee would get $420.
SB215 passed the House 87-0.
The House passed Senate Bill 231, which is the appropriation bill increase amount to the Emergency Forest Fire and Insect and Disease Fund. SB231 is sponsored by Sen. Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro, and was carried on the House floor by state Rep. Kyle South, R-Fayette.
State Rep. Elaine Beech, D-Chathom, said, “Thank you for bringing this bill my district is full of trees and you never know when a forest fire will hit.
SB231 passed 87-2.
The state of Alabama is unique among the states in that most of the money is earmarked for specific purposes allowing the Legislature little year-to-year flexibility in moving funds around.
The SGF includes appropriations for the Alabama Medicaid Agency, the courts, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the Alabama Department of Corrections, mental health, and most state agencies that are no education related. The Alabama Department of Transportation gets their funding mostly from state fuel taxes.
The Legislature also gives ALEA a portion of the gas taxes. K-12 education, the two year college system, and all the universities get their state support from the education trust fund (ETF) budget. There are also billions of dollars in revenue that are earmarked for a variety of purposes that does not show up in the SGF or ETF budgets.
Examples of that include the Public Service Commission, which collects utility taxes from the industries that it regulates. The PSC is supported entirely by its own revenue streams and contributes $13 million to the SGF. The Secretary of State’s Office is entirely funded by its corporate filing and other fees and gets no SGF appropriation.
Clouse warned reporters that part of the reason this budget had so much money was due to the BP oil spill settlement that provided money for the 2018 budget and $97 million for the 2019 budget. Clouse said they elected to make a $13 million repayment to the Alabama Trust fund that was not due until 2020 but that is all that was held over for 2020.
Clouse predicted that the Legislature will have to make some hard decisions about revenue in next year’s session.
Day Care bill delayed for second time on Senate floor, may be back Thursday
By Samuel Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter
The day care bill, which would license certain day care centers in Alabama, was once again delayed on the state Senate floor after one lawmaker requested more information.
Its brief appearance Tuesday ended with state Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, saying a compromise had not yet been worked out with the bill’s detractors.
Alabama’s Senate has been hesitant to act on the legislation because of complaints of state Sen. Shay Shelnutt, R-Trussville, who has been an opponent of the bill since its introduction last year. The bill’s delay on Tuesday marks the second time its been taken off the Senate’s agenda.
The bill has had a rocky time in this year’s session, but the bill’s sponsor state Rep. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, said she is still confident about its passage out of the Legislature.
Warren, D-Tuskegee, filed the bill this session with the support of influential lawmakers including Gov. Kay Ivey, who told reporters last year that she though all day cares should be licensed.
Mainly sparked by the death of 5-year-old boy in the care of a unlicensed day care worker, the bill had great momentum coming into this year’ session.
Despite the growing support from lawmakers, Religious groups had concerns that the bill would increase state-sponsored reach into religious day cares in churches and non-profit groups.
Spearheading the dissenters was Alabama Citizens Action Program, a conservative religious-based PAC.
Warren, proponents, and ALCAP announced a compromise to the bill while it was still in the Alabama House.
Announced by ALCAP originally, the new bill was a weaker version in that it did not require that all day cares in the state be regulated. Instead, religious-based day cares would only need to be registered if they received federal funds. At a Senate committee meeting in February, Warren said a similar requirement was about to come from federal law in Congress.
The bill moved through the House in a overwhelming vote in favor of the proposal and passed unanimously out of a Senate committee a few weeks ago.
Warren, speaking to reporters after its passage from the House, said she was unsure if the bill would encounter resistance in the upper chamber.
It was the Senate that killed the daycare bill last year amid a cramped last day where senators took the bill off the floor. The bill may face similar complications this year, as lawmakers seem to be preparing to adjourn within a few weeks.
Fantasy sports bill fails on Senate floor
By Samuel Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter
Would-be Fantasy Sports players in Alabama will have to wait to legally play in the state following a Senate vote on Tuesday.
The Alabama Senate decisively killed a bill to exempt fantasy sports from the state’s prohibition on gambling.
Not even entertaining a debate on the Senate floor, the proposal was killed during a vote for the Budget Isolation Resolution, which is usually a formality vote preluding a debate.
Fantasy sports are contests where participants select players from real teams to compete on fantasy teams using the real-world players’ stats.
Since 2016, the practice has been illegal in Alabama following a legal decision by the Attorney General’s Office that categorized it as gambling.
The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Paul Sanford, R-Huntsville, predicted the bill’s failure during a committee meeting two weeks ago, where the bill passed unanimously.
- Sen. Paul Sanford speaks to reporters after a Senate Committee meeting on Feb. 28, 2018. (Samuel Mattison/APR)
Speaking to reporter’s after the committee meeting, Sanford said the decision to file the bill was mainly a philosophical belief that the practice shouldn’t be illegal.
Sanford, a fantasy sports player before its ban, said that fantasy sports are a way to bring people closer together and not a means to win money. The Huntsville senator is not seeking re-election.
The bill’s failure in the Senate follows its trajectory last year too. A similar version of the bill, also sponsored by Sanford, failed in the Senate during the final days of the 2017 Legislative Session.
Since Sanford is retiring, it is unclear if the bill will even come back next session, or if it will even have a Senate sponsor.