By Beth Marietta Lyon
Alabama Political Reporter
The Alabama Legislature convened for day 15 of the annual Regular Session on Tuesday, February 27 with 31 committee meetings held throughout the week to consider legislation. Both Houses then convened on Thursday, March 1 for Day 16. The Session reached the halfway point on Tuesday.
There have been 842 bills introduced to date.
The Legislature will return to Montgomery on Tuesday, March 6 for day 17 of the Session with the House convening at 1:00 p.m. and the Senate at 2:00 p.m. Fourteen committees have scheduled meetings as of the time of this report.
Significant Introductions This Week
A third version of legislation relating to the Simplified Sellers Use Tax Remittance Program (SSUT) was introduced in the House. The bill would allow an out-of-state vendor participating in the SSUT to continue to participate in the Program if a physical presence in the state is established through the acquisition of an in-state company, provide that the transaction is subject to sales tax if completed at a retail establishment, provide that the eligible seller also includes sales through a marketplace facilitator, and authorize an additional 1% to be collected and distributed to municipalities according to population. The bill is pending in the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee [HB470 by Representative Rod Scott].
A bill was introduced in the Senate that would exempt prescription drugs from business license taxes based on gross receipts. The bill is pending in the Senate County and Municipal Government Committee [SB349 by Senator Billy Beasley].
A bill was introduced in both Houses that would increase the amount a licensed manufacturer of liquor may sell at retail for off-premises consumption from 750 milliliters per day to 4.5 liters per day [HB464 by Representative Chris Blackshear and SB352 by Senator Jimmy Holley].
A bill was introduced in both Houses that would make receiving, retaining, or disposing of a stolen firearm a felony regardless of the value of the firearm. The bill is pending in the House Judiciary Committee [HB465 by Representative Merika Coleman].
A bill was introduced in the Senate that would authorize an income tax credit to businesses that lose employees to a business currently receiving any economic tax incentive from state government. The bill is pending in the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee [SB356 by Senator Paul Sanford].
A bill was introduced in both Houses that would repeal the law that authorized the establishment of Regional Care Organizations and the Regional Care Organization System for providing Medicaid services throughout the state [HB475 by Representative Arnold Mooney and SB362 by Senator Paul Sanford].
A bill was introduced in the House that would prohibit the possession, sale, or transfer of assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition within the state. The bill is pending in the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee [HB472 by Representative Mary Moore].
A bill was introduced in the House that would authorize the City of Montgomery and the Montgomery Airport Authority to join the Employees’ Retirement System of Alabama and transfer assets and liabilities of the existing Employees’ Retirement System of the City of Montgomery to the Employees’ Retirement System of Alabama. The bill is pending in the House Montgomery County Legislation Committee [HB471 by Representative John Knight].
A bill was introduced in the House that would provide that a party desiring to redeem property sold to the state for unpaid taxes would pay interest only on the taxes dues at the time of default. The bill is pending in the House Fiscal Responsibility Committee [HB468 by Representative Becky Nordgren].
A bill was introduced in the House that would designate the first day of December of each year as Mrs. Rosa L. Parks Day. The bill is pending in the House State Government Committee [HB474 by Representative Laura Hall].
A proposed Constitutional Amendment was introduced in the Senate that would authorize an additional five mill annual state ad valorem tax with the net proceeds to be distributed to the State General Fund for Medicaid purposes. The bill is pending in the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee [SB353 by Senator Vivian Figures].
A bill was introduced in both Houses that would further provide auditing procedures for pharmacy records and would limit recoupment for certain errors by a pharmacy [HB457 by Representative Elaine Beech and SB348 by Senator Billy Beasley].
A bill was introduced in the Senate that would create the Alabama Rural Hospital Resource Center with the University of Alabama at Birmingham to facilitate access to high quality care and improve the health of rural Alabamians by increasing the viability and capabilities of eligible hospitals at no or minimal cost to those hospitals. The bill is pending in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee [SB351 by Senator Greg Reed].
Significant Committee Action This Week:
The House Boards, Agencies and Commissions Committee substituted and gave a favorable report to a Senate bill that would increase the membership of the State Pilotage Commission from 3 to 4 with the 4th member to be advisory only and appointed by the Chair of the Alabama State Port Authority Board. The bill now goes to the full House [SB222 by Senator Trip Pittman].
The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee gave a favorable report to a House 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 after remarriage, and extend the benefits for minor children. The bill now goes to the full Senate [HB192 by Representative Matt Fridy].
The Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee gave a favorable report to 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 full Senate [SB325 by Senator Paul Sanford].
The Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee gave a favorable report to a proposed Constitutional Amendment that would allow the state to participate in multi-state lottery games. The bill now goes to the full Senate [SB326 by Senator Paul Sanford].
The Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee gave a favorable report to a House bill that would clarify that an agricultural trade or business that purchases and installs irrigation equipment or a reservoir may claim one tax credit during tax years 2011 through 2017 and one tax credit during tax years 2018 through 2022. The bill now goes to the full Senate [HB260 by Representative Donnie Chesteen].
The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee gave a favorable report to a House bill that would remove the requirement for homeowners to submit copies of construction records in order to receive an insurance premium discount for meeting certain construction standards making a home resistant to strong winds if the property is certified by the Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) and evidence of that certification is submitted. The bill now goes to the full Senate [HB279 by Representative Randy Davis].
The Senate County and Municipal Government Committee gave a favorable report to a House bill that would provide that a business license is not required for a person traveling through a municipality on business if the person is not operating a branch office or doing business in the municipality. The bill now goes to the full Senate [HB107 by Representative Paul Lee].
The Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee gave a House bill that would provide for the regulation of tagging of oysters and require an annual oyster aquaculture license . The bill now goes to the full Senate [HB302 by Representative David Sessions].
The Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee gave a favorable report to a bill that would add a manufacturers license that conducts tastings or samplings to the types of alcoholic beverage licenses in an area where a municipality seeks to establish an entertainment district. The bill now goes to the full Senate [SB339 by Senator Rodger Smitherman].
The Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee gave a favorable report to a House bill that would allow the taking of whitetail deer or feral swine by means of bait with a baiting privilege license from the Department of conservation and Natural Resources. The bill now goes to the full Senate [HB21 by Representative Jack (JW) Williams].
The Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee held a public hearing and gave a favorable report to a bill that would provide for a wine direct shipper license to allow for shipment of limited quantities of wine directly to Alabama residents for personal use. The bill now goes to the full Senate [SB243 by Senator Bill Holtzclaw].
Significant Floor Action This Week
The Senate passed a local House bill that would authorize the governing body of any municipality within Mobile County, or the County Commission in any unincorporated areas of the county, to establish “on premises” sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages on Sunday commencing at 10:00 a.m. The bill now goes to the Governor [HB267 by Representative James Buskey].
The Senate passed a local House bill that would authorize Class 2 municipalities to provide for the abatement and removal of inoperable motor vehicles as public nuisances from private property. The bill returned to the House for action on a Senate amendment which was approved. The bill now goes to the Governor [HB127 by Representative Adline Clarke].
The House voted against a proposed Constitutional Amendment that would have required the Forever Wild Land Trust to annually reimburse the amount of al valorem tax revenue lost as a result of property previously subject to ad valorem tax being acquired by the Forever Wild Land Trust [HB362 by Representative Mark Tuggle].
The Senate amended and passed a bill that would authorize a 3% cost-of-living increase for state employees. The bill is now pending in the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee [SB185 by Senator Clyde Chambliss].
The Senate substituted and passed a bill that would allow certain retirees under the Employees’ Retirement System to receive a funded one-time lump-sum addition to their retirement allowances. The bill is now pending in the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee [SB215 by Senator Gerald Dial].
The Senate substituted and passed a bill that would allow certain retirees and beneficiaries under the Teachers’ Retirement System to receive a funded one-time lump-sum addition to their retirement allowances. The bill is now pending in the House Ways and Means Education Committee [SB21 by Senator Gerald Dial].
The Senate substituted and passed a bill that would make a $30 million supplemental appropriation for the Department of Corrections. The bill is now pending in the House Ways and Means General Fund [SB175 by Senator Trip Pittman].
The Senate amended and passed a House bill that would require the Commissioner of the Department of Revenue to convene the first meeting of the Alabama Land Bank Authority Board and allow the Board to obtain the state’s interest in real property acquired as a result of its sale for delinquent state taxes and retained in the state’s inventory for a period of five or more years. The bill returned to the House which concurred in the Senate amendment. The bill now goes to the Governor [HB54 by Representative Ron Johnson].
The House substituted and passed a bill that would require the Department of Public Health to establish a form for an Order for Pediatric Palliative and End of Life Care to be used by medical professionals outlining medical care provided to a minor with a terminal illness. The bill now goes to the Senate [HB194 by Representative April Weaver].
The House amended and passed a Senate bill that would provide procedures for the disposal of abandoned or derelict vessels. The bill returned to the Senate which concurred in the House amendment. The bill now goes to the Governor [SB50 by Senator Trip Pittman].
The House amended and passed a bill that would require a person seeking public office through a write-in candidacy to file a statement with voting officials in order for the write-in votes to be counted. The bill now goes to the Senate [HB241 by Representative Ron Johnson].
The House amended and passed a Senate bill that would provide for procedures for handling claims relating to potentially or proven dangerous dogs and provide for felony penalties for violations. The bill returned to the Senate which concurred in the House amendments. The bill now goes to the Governor [SB232 by Senator Steve Livingston].
The Senate passed a proposed Constitutional Amendment that would allow displays of the Ten Commandments or other religious displays on state property including public schools. The bill now goes to the House [SB181 by Senator Gerald Dial].
The Senate substituted and passed a bill that would require certain entities to provide notice to certain persons upon a breach of security that results in the unauthorized acquisition of sensitive personally identifying information. The bill is now pending in the House Technology and Research Committee [SB318 by Senator Arthur Orr].
The House passed a bill that would prohibit the possession or sale of sky lanterns. The bill now goes to the Senate [HB325 by Representative Ron Johnson].
- The Education Trust Fund Budget, sponsored by Rep. Poole, has passed the House and is pending in the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee.
- The General Fund Budget, sponsored by Sen. Pittman, has passed the Senate and is pending in the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee.
Major Legislation Enacted
- HB 190 by Rep. Faulkner: To prohibit municipalities from regulating transportation network companies (Uber, Lyft) and provide for permitting and licensing by the Public Service Commission.
- HB131 by Rep. Pringle: To substantially revise the provisions governing the operation of the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts.
- Bills Introduced: 842
- Bills which have passed house of origin: 303
- Bills which have passed both houses: 99
- Bills that are pending the governor’s signature: 50
- Bills which have been vetoed: 0
- Constitutional Amendment Bills pending referendum: 8
- Bills Enacted: 41
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.