Legislative Report 020218

Volume 19 Number 4 – February 2, 2018

7th & 8th legislative days

Senate Passes Rural Broadband Bill

On Thursday, the Senate approved SB 149 by Sen. Clay Scofield (R – Guntersville), which is intended to expand broadband into rural areas. The bill was approved by a vote of 29 – 0.

The legislation would exempt companies that build qualified broadband telecommunications network facilities in rural areas from sales tax for ten years. It would also provide a ten percent investment tax credit, capped at $20 million per company annually.

The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) and a legislative oversight committee are tasked with overseeing implementation of the legislation. All of the incentives will expire in five years, unless renewed by the state legislature.

The bill now moves on to the House where it is expected to go to the House Ways and Means Education Committee. It is likely that the bill will face criticism in the House over the definition of “rural” and the use of state tax credits on top of federal tax credits.

House Approves Uber/Lyft Bill

The floor of the Alabama House of Representatives was especially eventful on January 30th, spurred by the third reading of HB190, the bill sponsored by Rep. David Faulkner (R – Mountain Brook) to allow for statewide regulation on transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft.

The session opened with the adoption of the substituted version of the bill, which was approved by the Committee on Commerce and Small Business. However, the lecterns then became ground zero for the battle over a small excerpt in the bill, which dealt with non-discriminatory language. House members erupted time and time again, and the process slowed to a crawl as legislators offered and rebuffed multiple amendments.

House Democrats were pushing for the inclusion of a set of non-discriminatory regulations, while Rep. Faulkner and House Republicans argued that the language in the bill was sufficient and adding anything more would convolute the bill.

Two separate amendments were proposed and ultimately voted down, which included a provision specifically spelling out non-discrimination rules and another that required that fingerprinting be done as part of the background check process. Republicans pointed to the provision in the bill that would require the TNC’s to abide by the state’s already regulated non-discriminatory laws, while the Democrats wanted the rules deliberately spelled out in the bill.

The flood of amendments came to a close when Rep. Juandalyn Givan’s (D – Birmingham) amendment passed unanimously. It requires that the TNC adopt a policy of non-discrimination against people protected by Title 7, The Civil Rights Act of 1964, or the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. It also states that TNC drivers will abide by laws relating to the transportation of service animals, and that there will be no additional charges for individuals with physical disabilities. After a few hours of back and forth, the House finally passed the bill as amended, and it has now been assigned to the Senate Committee on Tourism and Marketing, chaired by President Pro Tem Sen. Del Marsh (R – Anniston).

Daycare Regulation Bill Passes House

A bill to add regulations for child care centers that are exempt from state licensing because of a church affiliation passed the Alabama House of Representatives on Thursday. After almost five hours of debate, the bill passed 86 – 5.

The Alabama Department of Human Resources licenses, inspects and sets minimum standards for child care centers. The minimum standards are extensive and include child-to-staff ratios, staff training and education, building space, bathroom facilities and outdoor area, meals, transportation rules and many other areas.

But about half of the almost 2,000 centers in the state are exempt from licensing because of a church affiliation.

The bill now goes to the Senate where it will likely face more spirited debate.

Upcoming Legislative Agenda

The House of Representatives and Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, February 6, 2018 at 1:30 and 2:00 p.m. respectively.