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Week Nine Legislative Report

Beth Lyons

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The Alabama Legislature convened for day 19 of the annual Regular Session on Tuesday, March 13 with twenty-seven committee meetings held throughout the week to consider legislation. Both Houses then convened on Thursday, March 15 for Day 20.

There have been 915 bills introduced to date.

The Legislature will return to Montgomery on Tuesday, March 20 for day 21 of the Session with the House and Senate convening at 2:00 p.m. Fifteen committees have scheduled meetings as of the time of this report.

SIGNIFICANT INTRODUCTIONS THIS WEEK:

A bill was introduced in the Senate that would prohibit the possession, sale, or transfer of assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition. The bill is pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee [SB383 by Senator Hank Sanders].

A bill was introduced in the Senate that would prohibit the carrying and possession of a firearm on the premises of a public school regardless of whether the person has intent to do bodily harm and would provide criminal penalties. The bill is pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee [SB394 by Senator Harri Anne Smith].

A bill was introduced in the House that would prohibit the sale or transfer of an assault weapon to any person under 21 years of age. The bill is pending in the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee [HB513 by Representative Ralph Howard].

A bill was introduced in both Houses that would allow public schools to offer elective courses focusing on the study of the Bible in grades 6 through 12, and allow the display of artifacts, monuments, symbols and texts related to the study of the Bible. The bills are pending in the Senate Education and Youth Affairs Committee and the House Education Policy Committee [SB391 by Senator Tim Melson and HB511 by Representative Reed Ingram].

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A bill was introduced in the House that would allow the State of Alabama to observe Daylight Savings Time year-round upon an act by Congress to amend the existing prohibition in federal law. The bill is pending in the House State Government Committee [HB508 by Representative Craig Ford].

A bill was introduced in the Senate that would further provide for permits for shoreline restoration, including the use of living shoreline techniques, by riparian property owners in coastal areas. The bill is pending in the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee [SB395 by Senator Greg Albritton].

A bill was introduced in the House that would provide reporting requirements, publication requirements, and certain requirements regarding the accounting of funds derived from civil forfeiture. The bill is pending in the House Judiciary Committee [HB518 by Representative Arnold Mooney].

SIGNIFICANT COMMITTEE ACTION THIS WEEK:

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The Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development committee held a public hearing, but did not vote, on a bill that would revise notification and confidentiality provisions governing certain economic incentives provided for by law and would clarity what incentives are subject to the notification requirements [HB317 by Representative Ken Johnson].

The Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee amended and passed a bill that would allow an out-of-state vendor participating in the Simplified Sales and Use Tax Remittance Program (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, and provide that the eligible seller also includes sales through a marketplace facilitator. The bill now goes to the full Senate [HB470 by Representative Rod Scott].

The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee held a public hearing and substituted a bill that would authorize certain persons employed by a state or local board of education to carry a firearm on school premises. The bill now goes to the full House [HB435 by Representative Will Ainsworth].

The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee held a public hearing and carried over a bill that would authorize the formation of trained volunteer school emergency security forces at public K-12 schools in the state consisting of current and retired school employees and local citizens [HB449 by Representative Allen Farley].

The Senate Judiciary Committee gave a favorable report to a House bill that would provide that a person is not criminally liable for using physical or deadly force in self-defense or in the defense of another on the premises of a church. The bill now goes to the full Senate [HB34 by Representative Lynn Greer].

The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee amended and gave a favorable report to a House bill that would authorize the State Fire Marshal to regulate and issue pyrotechnic display operator licenses and pyrotechnic special effects operator licenses to persons who provide fireworks displays, pyrotechnics, and related special effects to an audience. The bill now goes to the full Senate [HB376 by Representative Barbara Drummond].

The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee gave a favorable report to a House bill that would expand the list of non-curable lease breaches, shorten the notice period of noncompliance with a lease from seven days to three days, and provide that a tenant is entitled to only two curable breaches, instead of four, within any 12 month period. The bill now goes to the full Senate [HB421 by Representative David Sessions].

The House Judiciary Committee gave a favorable report to a Senate bill that would require county and municipal police departments and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency to adopt written policies to prohibit racial profiling, compile statistic on traffic stops and file reports with the Office of the Attorney General. The bill now goes to the full House [SB84 by Senator Rodger Smitherman].

The Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee gave a favorable report to a bill that would re-authorize certain sales and property tax abatements for data processing centers for an additional five year period. The bill now goes to the full Senate [SB379 by Senator Jabo Waggoner].

The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee gave a favorable report to a Senate bill that would further provide for persons charged with driving under the influence and the installation of ignition interlock devices. The bill now goes to the full House [SB301 by Senator Paul Bussman].

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee substituted and gave a favorable report to 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 full Senate [HB194 by Representative April Weaver].

The House Economic Development and Tourism Committee held a public hearing and gave a favorable report to a Senate bill that would add a manufacturers license to the types of alcohol beverage licenses for an establishment that conducts tastings or samplings in an entertainment district. The bill now goes to the full House [SB339 by Senator Rodger Smitherman].

The Senate Judiciary Committee gave a favorable report to a bill that would create the Voluntary Alabama Firearms Do Not Sell List and allow a person to restrict his or her firearm purchasing authority by voluntarily adding his or her name to the List. The bill now goes to the full Senate [SB376 by Senator Trip Pittman].

The Senate Judiciary Committee gave a favorable report to a House bill that would prohibit the possession or sale of sky lanterns. The bill now goes to the full Senate [HB325 by Representative Ron Johnson].

The House Judiciary Committee amended and gave a favorable report to a Senate bill that would provide for the voluntary transfer of a case from municipal court to the county district or circuit court when the defendant qualifies for a pretrial diversion program, mental health court, veteran court or similar program. The bill now goes to the full House [SB37 by Senator Cam Ward].

The Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee gave a favorable report to a House bill that would add certain enumerated public officials and boards to the list of entities supported by the Alabama Workforce Council, and revise the membership of the Council. The bill now goes to the full Senate [HB170 by Representative Alan Baker].

The Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee gave a favorable report to a House bill that would provide for the issuance of a non-profit special events retail license and provide that a licensed manufacturer may donate its product to a licensed non-profit special event. The bill now goes to the full Senate [HB414 by Representative Craig Ford].

The House Fiscal Responsibility Committee gave a favorable report to a bill that would require a county, municipality or local school board entering a bond financing agreement to include a schedule of all of their debt obligations for the time span of the maturity of the debt obligation. The bill now goes to the full House [HB500 by Representative Chris Sells].

SIGNIFICANT FLOOR ACTION THIS WEEK:

The House substituted, amended and passed the $1.75 billion General Fund Budget which includes an additional $53.8 million for Medicaid, an additional $55 million for Corrections, and funds for a 3% cost of living increase for non-education state employees. The bill now returns to the Senate for action on the House amendments [SB178 by Senator Trip Pittman].

The Senate substituted, amended and passed the $6.63 billion Education Trust Fund Budget which includes funds for a 2.5% increase for K-12 employees, 197 additional middle school teachers, a $18 million increase for Pre-K, a $16 million increase for community colleges, a $27 million increase for 4 year colleges, and a $450,000 increase for public libraries. The bill now returns to the House for action on the Senate amendments [HB175 by Representative Bill Poole].

The Senate passed a House bill that would give a cost-of-living increase of 2.5% to public education employees. The bill now goes to the Governor [HB174 by Representative Bill Poole].

The House passed a Senate bill that would make a $30 million supplemental appropriation for the Department of Corrections. The bill now goes to the Governor [SB175 by Senator Trip Pittman].

The House amended and passed a Senate bill that would authorize a 3% cost-of-living increase for state employees. The bill returned to the Senate for action on the House amendment which was approved. The bill now goes to the Governor [SB185 by Senator Clyde Chambliss].

The House substituted and passed a Senate bill that would allow certain retirees under the Employees’ Retirement System to receive a one-time lump-sum bonus to their retirement allowances. The bill returned to the Senate for action on the House substitute which was approved. The bill now goes to the Governor [SB215 by Senator Gerald Dial].

The Senate passed a House bill that would provide oversight of currently license exempt faith-based child care facilities. The bill now goes to the Governor [HB76 by Representative Pebblin Warren].

The House amended and passed a bill that would create the Alabama Task Force on School Safety and Security and would authorize the task force to annually study the current educational and safety laws, rules, and policies of the state in order to assist the Legislature in making effective changes to protect and benefit the citizens of the state. The bill is now pending in the Senate Education and Youth Affairs Committee [HB447 by Representative Terri Collins].

The Senate passed a bill that would allow funds in the Education Trust Fund Budget Stabilization Fund to be used for school security. The bill is now pending in the House Ways and Means Education Committee [SB323 by Senator Trip Pittman].

The House amended and passed a bill that would require law enforcement officers to complete sensitivity training, would require law enforcement agencies to recruit licensed social workers to be law enforcement officers, and require uniformed officers who carry firearms to also carry non-lethal weapons. The bill is now pending in the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee [SB335 by Senator Rodger Smitherman].

The Senate passed a bill that would designate the first day of December of each year as Mrs. Rosa L. Parks Day. The bill now goes to the House [SB365 by Senator Vivian Figures].

The House passed a Senate bill that would establish the Alabama Infrastructure Bank to provide for the appropriation and pledge of certain tax revenues, motor vehicle license taxes and registration fees, diesel fuel tax revenues, and motor carrier tax revenues. The bill now goes to the Governor [SB100 by Senator Arthur Orr].

The House passed a bill that would further provide auditing procedures for pharmacy records and would limit recoupment for certain errors by a pharmacy. The bill is now pending in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee [HB457 by Representative Elaine Beech].

The House and Senate passed companion bills 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 [HB446 by Representative Randall Shedd and SB351 by Senator Greg Reed].

The Senate substituted and passed a House bill that would modify the Wallace-Folsom Savings Investment Plan to authorize a contribution to, and continued investment in, an ACES Program or ABLE Program savings account by the guardian or conservator of the designated beneficiary, and allow the distributions from the accounts be used toward expenses at any higher education institution. The bill now returns to the House for action on the Senate substitute [HB251 by Representative Ken Johnson].

The Senate passed a bill that would require a county, municipality or local school board entering a bond financing agreement to include a schedule of all of their debt obligations for the time span of the maturity of the debt obligation. The bill is now pending in the House County and Municipal Government Committee [SB364 by Senator Arthur Orr].

The Senate substituted and passed a bill 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. The bill now goes to the House [SB352 by Senator Jimmy Holley].

The House passed a bill that would re-authorize certain sales and property tax abatements for data processing centers for an additional five year period. The bill now goes to the Senate [HB494 by Representative Nathaniel Ledbetter].

The House amended and passed a bill that would substantially overhaul the Juvenile Justice System, and provide for community-based treatment centers for certain low-level offenders. The bill now goes to the Senate [HB225 by Representative Jim Hill].

The House passed a bill that would allow manufacturers and dealers of boats located within the State to make application to the Department of Revenue for the authority to issue temporary license plates and registration certificates for boat trailers when sold out of state. The bill now goes to the Governor [SB293 by Senator Bill Hightower].

The House amended and passed a bill that would exempt the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo from payment of state, county, and municipal sales and use taxes related to capital expenditures for four years. The bill now goes to the Senate [HB118 by Representative Steve McMillan].

The House amended and passed a bill that would make genital mutilation of a female under the age of 19 a Class D felony. The bill now goes to the Senate [HB284 by Representative Connie Rowe].

The Senate passed a resolution calling on Congress to permanently adopt what is now Daylight Saving Time as the new standard for time in the United States year round. The resolution now goes to the House [SJR101 by Senator Rusty Glover].

BUDGETS:

  • The Education Trust Fund Budget, HB175 by Rep. Poole, has been passed by both chambers and returned to the House for action on a Senate substitute.
  • The General Fund Budget, SB178 by Sen. Pittman, has been passed by both chambers and returned to the Senate for action on a House substitute.

SUMMARY:

  • Bills Introduced: 915
  • Bills that have passed house of origin: 415
  • Bills that have passed both houses: 175
  • Bills that are pending the governor’s signature: 71
  • Bills that have been vetoed: 0
  • Constitutional amendment bills pending referendum: 11
  • Bills enacted: 93

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Economy

Alabama weekly unemployment claims dip below 10,000 for first time since March

It is the lowest number of initial claims filed in a week since the number first spiked in the third week of March, when it jumped from 1,824 to 10,982 — though still much higher than before the pandemic began.

Micah Danney

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(APR GRAPHIC)

There were 9,468 unemployment claims filed in Alabama last week, down from 11,692 the previous week, according to the Alabama Department of Labor.

It is the lowest number of initial claims filed in a week since the number first spiked in the third week of March, when it jumped from 1,824 to 10,982 — though still much higher than the normal before the pandemic began. The most weekly claims filed during the pandemic was 106,739 in the week ending April 4. In 2019, an average of 2,500 people per week filed unemployment claims.

65 percent of the claims — or 6,110 claims — from Aug. 2 to Aug. 8 were related to COVID-19, according to the Alabama Department of Labor. That compares to 76 percent the week before.

New claims dropped sharply in May and declined fairly steadily, then increased over the first half of July as cases resurged in Alabama but began declining again in the second half of July. Average daily COVID-19 cases peaked on July 19 before beginning a new decline.

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News

Mazda, Toyota invest additional $830 million in joint Huntsville plant

The additional investment into the plant, which is to produce new SUV’s for both car companies, is for new manufacturing technologies to the production line and additional training for the 4,000 or so expected workers.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Gov. Kay Ivey on Thursday announced an additional $830 million investment in Mazda Motor Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp.’s joint manufacturing venture, Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, in Huntsville. 

The additional investment into the plant, which is to produce new SUV’s for both car companies, is for new manufacturing technologies to the production line and additional training for the 4,000 or so expected workers, according to a press release from Ivey’s office. 

“Toyota’s presence in Alabama continues to build excitement about future opportunities that lie ahead, both for our economy and for the residents of our great state,” Ivey said in a statement. “Mazda and Toyota’s increased commitment to the development of this manufacturing plant reiterates their belief in the future of manufacturing in America and the potential for the state of Alabama to be an economic leader in the wake of unprecedented economic change.

The additional $830 million brings the total investment in the project to $2.311 billion and will allow for production line modifications for both of the new models. Once complete, the facility is slated to be able to produce up to 150,000 of a future Mazda crossover model and up to 150,000 of the Toyota SUVs annually. 

The joint venture has already hired approximately 600 of the planned 4,000 new workers, and the companies expect to begin accepting applications again later this year.

“Mazda Toyota Manufacturing is proud to call Alabama home. Through strong support from our state and local partners, we have been able to further incorporate cutting-edge manufacturing technologies, provide world-class training for team members and develop the highest quality production processes,” said Mark Brazeal, vice president of administration at MTM, in a statement. “As we prepare for the start of production next year, we look forward to developing our future workforce and serving as a hometown company for many years to come.”

Construction on the Huntsville plant is ongoing, with 75 to 100 percent completion on roofing, siding, floor slabs, ductwork, fire protection and electrical, according to the press release. 

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“This newest investment by our partners at Mazda Toyota Manufacturing shows the company’s continued confidence in the ability of our community to provide a strong, skilled workforce to meet the demands for quality and reliability,” Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said in a statement. “We look forward to the day when the first vehicles roll off the line.”

“We are excited to learn of this additional investment being made by Mazda Toyota Manufacturing,” Limestone County Commission Chairman Colin Daly said in a statement. “We continue to be grateful to MTM for their belief in our community and look forward to our partnership with them for many years to co

Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said the new investment will magnify the economic impact of a project that is poised to transform the North Alabama region.

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“With this enhanced investment, Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA is adding new technology and capabilities to a manufacturing facility that was already designed to be one of the most efficient factories in the automotive industry,” Canfield said in a statement. “We’re confident that the groundbreaking collaboration between Mazda and Toyota will drive growth not only for the companies but also for North Alabama for generations.”

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National

Jones calls for fixes to USPS delays and reduced costs for election mail

“Like voting itself, the U.S. Postal Service is vital to our democracy,” wrote Sen. Doug Jones and 46 other senators to the U.S. postmaster general.

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Democratic Alabama Sen. Doug Jones and 46 Senate colleagues in a letter to the U.S. postmaster general on Thursday expressed serious concerns over changes that will increase the cost of citizens to vote.

“Like voting itself, the U.S. Postal Service is vital to our democracy. Since you assumed the role of Postmaster General, there have been disturbing reports regarding changes at USPS that are causing significant delays in the delivery of mail. Under normal circumstances, delayed mail is a major problem – during a pandemic in the middle of a presidential election, it is catastrophic,” the senators wrote in the letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. 

President Donald Trump on Thursday repeated statements he’s made that the U.S. Postal Service won’t be able to process mail-in ballots in the November election without the needed federal funding, which he is withholding. 

“They want $3.5 billion for the mail-in votes. Universal mail-in ballots. They want $25 billion—billion—for the post office. Now they need that money in order to have post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” Trump told Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo Thursday morning. “Those are just two items. But if you don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting. Because they’re not equipped to have it.”

DeJoy in recent days has ordered major reshuffling in the Postal Service’s management ranks, ordered a hiring freeze and made other cuts. Secretaries of state nationwide were also notified that instead of the 20-cent bulk rate for election mail, as has been used for decades, now it would cost 55 cents to send such mail via first-class postage. 

The Postal Service in previous elections treated all election mail, no matter how much was spent on postage, as first-class and as such expedited delivery. The recent announcement signals that election mail not sent first class will not receive the same expedited delivery times, worrying many that DeJoy, appointed by the Postal Service’s majority-Republican board in May, is attempting to exert political influence into mail delivery just before the presidential election. 

Trump has repeatedly said, without factual cause, that mail-in ballots are ripe for fraud. Mail-in voting has surged across the country in recent elections and even more so amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Several states — including California, Colorado and Washington — conduct all elections almost entirely by mail.

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Mail-in voting fraud is incredibly rare, according to The Brennan Center for Justice, which noted that in Oregon, a state that votes primarily by mail, only about a dozen cases of voter fraud were proven out of 100 million mail-in ballots since 2000. 

“As Postmaster General, you have a duty to our democracy to ensure the timely delivery of election mail. Millions of Americans’ right to vote depends on your ability to get the job done. We urge you not to increase costs for election officials, and to direct all Postal Service employees to continue to prioritize delivery of election mail,” the senators’ letter continues.

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Elections

Alabama State Fraternal Order of Police endorses Russell Bedsole

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama House District 49 Republican candidate Russell Bedsole.

The Alabama State Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Republican candidate Russell Bedsole in the special election in Alabama House of Representatives District 49. Bedsole is a Captain with the Shelby County sheriff’s Department and currently serves on the Alabaster City Council.

“There is no doubt that our country, state, and communities are facing extreme challenges,” said Everette Johnson, the president of the Alabama State FOP. “These challenges have caused stress, divisiveness, and concern for the future of our country. Now more than ever, we need strong, yet compassionate, leaders to guide us through these turbulent times. We need leaders who understand how important the safety of our communities should be and the willingness to work together for all. Russell Bedsole is that leader.”

Bedsole said it is an honor to be endorsed by the Alabama State Fraternal Order of Police.

“As a representative of District 49, I will work to protect law and order in our communities and stand up for our conservative Christian values in Montgomery,” he said.

Bedsole and competitor Mimi Penhale were the top two vote-getters in the Republican primary runoff. Chuck Martin, who came in third, has also endorsed Bedsole.

“I wanted to again thank those that voted for me, supported me by putting up signs and making phone calls,” Martin said in a statement on social media. “I also want to thank those who also made donations to fund my campaign. Since I came in third, Russell Bedsole and Mimi Penhale have both ask for my endorsement. I want to ask those that supported me to support Russell Bedsole. Both candidates are great people, but Debbie and I made the decision to support Russell.”

Bedsole has been elected twice by the citizens of Alabaster to represent the city’s fifth ward on the Alabaster City Council. Bedsole’s campaign said that during his time of service, Alabaster has benefited from positive economic growth, a first-class school system and a high quality of life. He has also received endorsements from the Shelby County Fraternal Order of Police, Alabama Association of Nurse Anesthetists and Conservation Alabama.

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A runoff election for the District 49 seat will be held on Sept. 1.

“I humbly ask for your vote on September 1 to grant me the opportunity to serve District 49,” Bedsole said.

The special election is being held to fill the seat left vacant when Rep. April Weaver, R-Briarfield, joined President Donald Trump’s administration as a regional director of the Department of Health and Human Services. House District 49 includes portions of Bibb, Chilton and Shelby Counties. The eventual Republican nominee will face Democratic nominee Cheryl Patton in the Special General Election on Tuesday, Nov. 17. The winner will serve the remainder of April Weaver’s term, which ends in late 2022.

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