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Week three 2019 regular session legislative report

Beth Lyons

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Contributed by the Lyons Law Firm. View the full report here.

The Alabama Legislature resumed its annual Regular Session on Tuesday, April 2 for Day 5. Twenty-seven committee meetings were held throughout the week to consider legislation. Both Houses met on Wednesday, April 3 for Day 6 and Thursday, April 4 for Day 7.

In total, 611 bills have been introduced to date.

The Legislature will return to Montgomery on Tuesday, April 9 for Day 8 of the Session with the House convening at 1 p.m. and the Senate at 3 p.m.

DURING THE WEEK:

Rep. Dimitri Polizos of Montgomery (District 74) passed away the week of the break following a heart attack. His family was honored on the House floor and presented with a Resolution honoring his life and contribution to public service in the state. Governor Kay Ivey has scheduled a special election to fill the vacant seat. The primary will be held on June 11 with a run-off, if necessary, scheduled for August 27. If no run-off is necessary, the general election will be held on August 27. If a run-off is necessary the general election will be held on November 12.

The U. S. Department of Justice released its 56 page report following a two and a half year investigation into Alabama’s prisons. The Department concluded that there is reasonable cause to believe that conditions in Alabama prisons violate the Constitution. Governor Ivey released the following statement in response, “We appreciate the U.S. Department of Justice’s efforts to ensure open lines of communication with the State of Alabama. DOJ has identified many of the same areas of concern that we have discussed publicly for some time. Over the coming months, my Administration will be working closely with DOJ to ensure that our mutual concerns are addressed and that we remain steadfast in our commitment to public safety, making certain that this Alabama problem has an Alabama solution.”

SIGNIFICANT INTRODUCTIONS THIS WEEK:

A bill was introduced in both Houses that would make an abortion procedure a felony for a physician unless the abortion is necessary to prevent serious health risks to the mother [HB314 by Rep. Terri Collins and SB211 by Sen. Greg Albritton].

A bill was introduced in both houses that would amend the Simplified Sellers Use Tax by modifying the definition of eligible seller, clarifying transactions from which simplified sellers us tax cannot be remitted, and adjusting the use tax rate [HB318 by Rep. Rod Scott and SB218 by Sen. Greg Albritton].

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A bill was introduced in both Houses that would prohibit a local governing body from banning the use of plastic grocery bags [HB346 by Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter and SB244 by Sen. Steve Livingston].

A bill was introduced in the House that would require dispensing veterinarians to notify pet owners of the option to purchase veterinary drugs from a pharmacy rather than the veterinarian’s office. The bill is pending in the House Agriculture and Forestry Committee [HB293 by Rep. Margie Wilcox].

A bill was introduced in the House that would allow a licensed wine manufacturer to obtain a wine direct shipper permit to ship directly to residents for personal use. The bill is pending in the House Commerce and Small Business Committee [HB350 by Rep. Terri Collins].

A bill was introduced in the House that would require the owner of a vessel to obtain a certificate of title on the vessel. The bill is pending in the House State Government Committee [HB303 by Rep. Connie Rowe].

Two bills were introduced in the House that would permit wagering on the results of certain professional or collegiate sports or athletic events. The bills are pending in the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee [HB315 and HB358 by Rep. John Rogers].

A bill was introduced in the House that would allow the carrying or possession of a firearm on certain property or in a motor vehicle without a concealed pistol permit. The bill is pending in the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee [HB336 by Rep. Andrew Sorrell].

A bill was introduced in the House that would require fire departments provide supplemental insurance coverage to pay the claims of a career firefighter who has served 12 consecutive months and has been diagnosed with cancer under certain conditions. The bill is pending in the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee [HB360 by Rep. Phillip Pettus].

A bill was introduced in the House that would provide for the registration of certain fantasy sports operators, require the implementation of procedures for consumer protection, and exempt fantasy sports contests from the state prohibition against gambling. The bill is pending in the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee [HB361 by Rep. Kyle South].

A bill was introduced in the House that would require the Strengthen Alabama Homes Program to maintain as confidential all documents and information submitted in support of grant applications. The bill is pending in the House Insurance Committee [HB363 by Rep. Chip Brown].

A bill was introduced in the Senate that would revise the State Minimum Salary Schedule for education employees to reflect a 4% pay increase beginning October 1, 2019. The bill is pending in the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee [SB192 by Sen. Arthur Orr].

A bill was introduced in the Senate that would require a county or municipality to include a schedule of all of the debt obligations of the county or municipality with the bond financing agreement documents. The bill is pending in the Senate Governmental Affair Committee [SB202 by Sen. Arthur Orr].

A bill was introduced in the Senate that would provide for the procedure for depositing of material from the dredging of the inlets of the state. The bill is pending in the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee [SB215 by Sen. David Sessions].

A proposed Constitutional Amendment was introduced in the Senate that would establish a lottery, provide for the sale of paper lottery tickets including instant tickets and multi-state lottery games, and provide for the distribution of proceeds, first to repayment to the Alabama Trust Fund for transfers made to the General Fund, then one-half to the Alabama Trust Fund and one-half to the General Fund. The bill is pending in the Senate Tourism Committee [SB220 by Sen. Greg Albritton].

A bill was introduced in the Senate that would require the Department of Agriculture and Industries to develop a plan for monitoring and regulating the production of hemp. The bill is pending in the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee [SB225 by Sen. Tim Melson].

A bill was introduced in the Senate that would move from the ethics code to the criminal code certain provisions relating to the ethics law and revise certain provision regarding public officials. The bill is pending in the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee [SB230 by Sen. Greg Albritton].

A bill was introduced in the Senate that would allow certain licensed small farm wineries to sell directly to consumers. The bill is pending in the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee [SB234 by Sen. Tom Whatley].

A bill was introduced in the Senate that would allow the use of medical marijuana if a person has a qualifying condition and a valid medical cannabis card. The bill is pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee [SB236 by Sen. Tim Melson].

SIGNIFICANT COMMITTEE ACTION THIS WEEK:

The House Ways and Means General Fund Committee substituted and gave a favorable report to the
2.1 billion General Fund Budget which includes a $40 million increase to the Department of Corrections, a $5.7 million increase to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, a $52 million decrease to Medicaid, which will be offset by federal funds, and an $8 million increase to the Department of Mental Health. The bill now goes to the full House [HB152 by Rep. Steve Clouse].

The House Ways and Means General Fund Committee amended and gave a favorable report to a bill that would provide for a cost-of-living increase for state employees beginning Oct. 1, 2019. The bill now goes to the full House [HB166 by Rep. Dimitri Polizos].

The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee gave a favorable report to a bill that would require all business license and permit applicants who employ five or more persons to prove enrollment in E-Verify prior to the issuance of a business license or permit by a municipality or county. The bill now goes to the full Senate [SB71 by Sen. Arthur Orr].

The Senate Tourism Committee held a public hearing, but did not vote, on three lottery bills [SB116 and SB130 by Sen. Jim McClendon, and SB220 by Sen. Greg Albritton].

The House Insurance Committee amended and gave a favorable report to a bill that would require insurance companies writing homeowners insurance policies to offer an endorsement that upgrades a home to a fortified standard adopted when the insured incurs roof damage covered by the policy that will require a roof to be replaced. The bill now goes to the full House [HB283 by Rep. Chip Brown].

The Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee gave a favorable report to a bill that would allow the state and its political subdivisions to utilize waiver valuations, in lieu of an appraisal, to determine the value of real property for the right-of-way acquisitions. The bill now goes to the full Senate [SB139 by Sen. Billy Beasley].

The Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee and the House State Government Committee gave favorable reports to companion bills that would provide that a local employer participating in the Employees’ Retirement System could elect to provide the same retirement benefits given to Tier I plan members to its Tier II plan members [SB147 by Sen. Jabo Waggoner and HB61 by Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter].

The House Economic Development and Tourism Committee gave a favorable report to a bill that would provide that Alabama would observe Daylight Saving Time year-round if Congress amends the existing federal prohibition. The bill now goes to the full House [HB172 by Rep. April Weaver].

The Senate Tourism Committee gave a favorable report to a bill that would exclude certain rentals that are not for overnight accommodations from the lodging tax. The bill now goes to the full Senate [SB171 by Sen. Garlan Gudger].

The Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee held a public hearing, but did not vote, on a bill that would exclude places or spaces for tent camping or marine slips, or in parks for recreational vehicles from the state transient occupancy tax or lodging tax [SB19 by Sen. Gerald Allen].

SIGNIFICANT FLOOR ACTION THIS WEEK:

The House passed a bill that would provide circumstances under which an individual acting as an economic development professional is not considered a lobbyist. The bill now goes to the Senate [HB289 by Rep. Alan Baker].

The House passed a bill that would authorize the Town of Dauphin Island to establish up to three entertainment districts within its corporate limits if certain qualifications are met. The bill now goes to the Senate [HB224 by Rep. Chip Brown].

The House substituted, amended and passed a bill that would require retailers of alternative nicotine products, to obtain a tobacco license, prohibit certain advertisements, prohibit the sale to minors, and require the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to regulate retail sales of alternative nicotine devices as with sales of tobacco products. The bill now goes to the Senate [HB41 by Rep. Shane Stringer].

The Senate amended and passed a bill that would allow public schools to offer elective courses focusing on the study of the Bible in grades 6 to 12 and allow for the display of artifacts, monuments, symbols, and texts related to the study of the Bible. The bill now goes to the House [SB14 by Sen. Tim Melson].

The Senate carried over a bill that would establish procedures and conditions for asset forfeitures. The bill now goes to the House [SB191 by Sen. Arthur Orr].

The Senate carried over a bill that would require the owner of a vessel to obtain a certificate of title on the vessel [SB152 by Sen. Billy Beasley].

The House amended and passed a bill that would authorize the county commission of a wet county to permit and regulate the sale of alcoholic beverages on Sunday. The bill now goes to the Senate [HB168 by Rep. Reed Ingram].

The House passed a bill that would allow a county housing authority to have the option of electronic posting of the notice to potential purchasers of bonds, eliminate the requirement for bids to be advertised for three weeks and publicly let to the lowest responsible bidder, and exclude municipal, county and regional housing authorities from the requirement of obtaining prior written consent of the Department of Finance to issue and sell bonds. The bill now goes to the Senate [HB63 by Rep. Steve McMillan].

The House passed a bill that would allow the state and its political subdivisions to utilize waiver valuations, in lieu of an appraisal, to determine the value of real property for the purposes of righ-of-way acquisitions. The bill now goes to the Senate [HB98 by Rep. Corley Ellis].

The House carried over a bill that would provide for the governor to fill vacancies in the U. S. Senate until the next general election [HB23 by Rep. Steve Clouse].

The Senate amended and passed a bill that would criminalize the act of recording or attempting to record any image or video of private, intimate body parts of another person without that person’s consent. The bill now goes to the House [SB26 by Sen.Clyde Chambliss].

The Senate passed a bill that would authorize the taking of whitetail dear or feral swine by means of bait when a person purchases a baiting privilege license from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The bill now goes to the House [SB66 by Sen. Jack Williams].

ON THE LIGHTER SIDE:

A joint Senate and House resolution congratulating the band Alabama on their 50th Anniversary passed the Senate and is pending in the House Rules Committee [SJR26 by Sen. Steve Livingston].

A joint Senate and House resolution to make Autauga County Artesian Water the Official State Water passed the Senate and is pending in the House Rules Committee [SJR17 by Sen. Clyde Chambliss].

BUDGETS:

  • Education Trust Fund — HB141 by Rep. Poole in the House. Pending in House Ways and Means committee.
  • Education Trust Fund — SB199 by Sen. orr in the Senate. Pending in the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee.
  • General Fund Budget — HB152 by Rep. Clouse in the House. Substituted and reported favorable from the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee.
  • General Fund Budget — SB85 by Sen. Albritton in the Senate. Pending in the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee.

SUMMARY STATISTICS:

  • Bills introduced: 611
  • Bills that have passed house of origin: 97
  • Bills that have passed both houses: 1
  • Bills that are pending governor’s signature: 1
  • Bills that have been vetoed: 0
  • Constitutional Amendment bills pending referendum: 0
  • Bills enacted: 0
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House

Alabama Legislature plans to return to work briefly March 31

Eddie Burkhalter

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The Alabama Senate is planning to get to only a few big, constitutionally mandated items before calling an end to the year’s legislative session amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but whether they’ll get those tasks accomplished remains to be seen. 

Senate leadership is advising lawmakers who fall into “at-risk” categories because of their age or pre-existing medical conditions to not attend the Senate’s meeting when it resumes.

Among the items legislators tentatively plan to tackle before gaveling the session closed sometime in the future are the passage of the Education Trust Fund budget and the General Fund budget, which is the Legislature’s only constitutionally mandated duty.

And “other bills deemed necessary.” 

The state Senate’s Plan of Action, obtained by APR Friday, states that the Senate will meet at 2 p.m. on March 31 for its 14th legislative day. 

“The intent for this legislative day is to advance only essential attendance items and then to adjourn to a date certain for the 15th Legislative Day. April 28 has been discussed with the House,” the plan reads. 

The State Senate’s plan: 

“As leaders, it is imperative that we demonstrate that the business of this state carries on in an orderly and systematic fashion while adhering to the recommendations of our public health officials.

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The Alabama Senate will meet on Tuesday, March 31 at 2:00 pm at the Statehouse in the Senate Chamber as scheduled. This will be the 14th Legislative Day.

The intent for this legislative day is to advance only essential attendance items and then to adjourn to a date certain for the 15th Legislative Day. April 28 has been discussed with the House.

Below is a draft agenda for Tuesday, March 31.

  • Gavel In
  • Pledge and Prayer
  • Roll Call
  • Excuse all Senators
  • Points of Personal Privilege
  • President Pro Tem Marsh
  • Majority Leader Reed
  • Minority Leader Singleton
  • Adjourn to date certain for 15th Legislative Day.

“It is highly recommended that any Senator that falls into any of the at-risk categories stay away from the March 31 Legislative Day,” the plan advises. “However, each Senator’s personal wish will be accommodated.”

Any Senator or staff member that is ill, has been ill, or has been in the same room of anyone that has had any symptom of illness in the 72 hours preceding the March 31 Legislative Day must stay away from the March 31 Legislative Day, according to the Senate’s leadership.

A disinfecting station will be provided under the canopy of the second-floor rear entrance for each senator to disinfect hands and cell phones as they enter the State House and as they leave the Statehouse.

“We must ensure that we practice all Health Department recommendations while at the Statehouse,” the plan reads.

Social distancing will be accomplished by having senators report to their offices by 1:45 p.m. They will then walk into the chamber as the roll is called and then go back to their offices.

“As much separation as possible is required therefore greetings must be verbal only from a distance of 6 feet or greater,” the plan reads.

The remainder of the session will be held possibly Tuesday, April 28 through Monday, May 18.

This timeframe includes three weeks of the session plus the last day of May 18.

A specific plan for meeting more days than normal will be developed and provided prior to the next legislative meeting date.

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House

$200,000 in campaign finance penalties deposited into State General Fund

Staff

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Act 2015-495, which went into effect beginning with the 2018 Election Cycle, allows the Secretary of State’s Office to issue penalties to Political Action Committees (PACs) and Principal Campaign Committees (PCCs) that fail to timely file campaign finance reports.

As of today, the Office of the Secretary of State has collected $202,504.20 which has been deposited into the State General Fund to benefit the people of Alabama.

Conversations with the Senate and House General Fund Chairmen are currently underway to determine the best way to allocate these resources to counties.

Anyone who receives a campaign finance penalty is able to appeal their penalty to the Alabama Ethics Commission who has the authority to overturn a penalty.

“When I campaigned for this office in 2014, I made a promise to the people of Alabama that I would work to see that it is easy to vote and hard to cheat in this state. Since then, we have worked to make the electoral process more fair and transparent through requiring the honest reporting of all PACs and PCCs,” stated Secretary of State John H. Merrill.

Anyone who suspects an individual may be in violation of the Alabama Election Fairness Project is encouraged to report suspicious activity to StopVoterFraudNow.com.

 

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Economy

Daniels: We have to get help to those who need it most

Josh Moon

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There is not enough help coming fast enough to the people struggling the most. 

That was the message from Alabama House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, who was asked on the “Alabama Politics This Week” podcast about the efforts of Alabama’s state government to address the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“If you’ve never been poor, you don’t fully comprehend how things like this affect the poor and the unique problems the poor people face,” Daniels said. “I commend Gov. (Kay) Ivey and her staff for working to try and address this crisis the best they can, but I just think there’s a lack of understanding among all of us in some cases of how people need help.” 

To address those issues, at least in part, Daniels is writing a series of letters to different entities, including Ivey, to explain how they can best help the state’s most vulnerable. 

Daniels plans to ask the Alabama Supreme Court to order lower courts to halt foreclosure proceedings and evictions for those affected by coronavirus job losses and illnesses. He also will ask Ivey to intervene with banks on behalf of customers who are falling hopelessly behind on mortgage, car loans and other installment loans. And he will seek additional assistance from the state for borrowers with overwhelming student loan debt. 

“I want people to understand that I’m not criticizing what’s being done or trying to take control, I just hear from these folks on a daily basis and believe there are some better ways to help people,” Daniels said. “President Trump has addressed student loan debt by knocking the interest of those loans, but what does that really do for a person who just lost a job? Or someone who’s had hours and pay cut? We need to pause those payments and give people substantial forgiveness. 

“Otherwise, it’s going to be ugly.”

Democrats in the House also have been putting together potential legislation that could be passed to help the state’s poorest citizens and those who have been laid off from jobs. The specifics of those pieces of legislation weren’t available, but Daniels said they would have the same focus — providing real help for those who need it most. 

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If those bills are anything like the measures taken during the last economic downturn, you can expect a relaxing of rules on social programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and unemployment assistance programs. 

One of the first moves could be overturning a measure passed during the last legislative session that cut the number of weeks of unemployment pay in the state from 26 to 14. State Sen. Arthur Orr sponsored that legislation, and critics argued at the time that a downturn, such as the one that occurred in 2008, could suddenly leave thousands in the state without jobs and job prospects. It passed anyway.

 

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House

Alabama House cancels March 25 committee meetings due to coronavirus

Jessa Reid Bolling

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The Alabama House of Representatives announced on Monday that committee meetings scheduled for Wednesday, March 25 will be cancelled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

The legislative day on March 26 has not technically been cancelled but the House is not expected to have a quorum for that day.

A “quorum” is the minimum number of House members that must be present at any meeting to make the proceedings of that meeting valid. If there are not enough members present, then the meeting cannot proceed and House rules state that the speaker of the House is allowed to set a new date for the meeting. 

The Legislature is currently on an annual spring break. The House and Senate are both expected to reconvene on March 31. According to the statement from the House, a joint decision will be made regarding the future legislative meeting days.

The full statement reads:

“The leadership of the Alabama House of Representatives has made several changes to the upcoming meeting calendar because of the coronavirus crisis in the state.

House committees that were scheduled to meet on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 have been cancelled.

The House is scheduled to meet on Thursday, March 26, 2020 at 9:30 a.m. but no quorum is expected that day.

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Under House Rule 5(b), if there’s no quorum to conduct business during a state of emergency declared by the governor, the speaker of the House is allowed to set the date and time of the next meeting day. 

Both the House and Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, March 31, 2020 and at that time a joint decision will be made as to future legislative meeting days.”

 

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