Legislative Report 021017

Volume 18 Number 1 – February 10, 2017

1st & 2nd legislative days

2017 Legislative Session Begins

The 2017 legislative session began on Tuesday. As always, the budgets will be a top priority, but new prisons and redistricting will also play a major role throughout the session.

In January, the federal courts ruled that 12 legislative districts were unconstitutional and must be redrawn. The districts must be redrawn prior to the 2018 election, and legislators plan to tackle it this session.

Governor Bentley is pushing his $800 million prison construction plan again this year. Sen. Cam Ward (R – Alabaster) introduced the legislation on the first day of the session. It would allow for the closure of 13 of the 15 men’s prisons and replace them with three larger regional prisons. It would also allow for the replacement of Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women. A similar bill failed on the last night of the session last year.

Sen. Ward said he plans to have the bill in committee next Wednesday.

Along with his prison construction bill, Governor Bentley is also advocating for expansion of the state’s Pre-K program and removal of the state sales tax on groceries. He said during his State of the State address that he would form a task force to study best practices on the removal of the grocery sales tax.

Caucuses Reveal Legislative Agendas

The House Republicans revealed their 2017 legislative agenda entitled “Alabama Proud,” and quickly began moving several of the bills this week.

Some of the House Republicans’ agenda items include:

  • The Memorial Preservation Act, which would prevent the removal of historic monuments, statues, or memorials. Rep. Kyle South (R – Fayette) introduced HB 99.
  • The Americans First Act, which would withhold funding from cities, counties, or public universities that declare themselves “sanctuary” areas. HB 100 by Rep. Phil Williams (R – Huntsville) received a favorable report from the House State Government Committee on Wednesday.

For more information on the House Republicans’ agenda, click here.

The Senate Republicans’ 2017 agenda is entitled “Strengthen Alabama.” Some of their agenda items include:

  • SB 24 by Sen. Gerald Allen (R – Tuscaloosa) would remove the requirement for a conceal carry permit.
  • SB 90 by Sen. Arthur Orr (R – Decatur) would establish the Judicial Resources Allocation Commission, headed by the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. The Commission would review the need for judgeships in each district, using criteria that include population size, caseload, and judicial duties.

For the entire Senate Republican legislative agenda, click here.

The Senate Democrats entitled their 2017 agenda “Restoring Dignity and Prosperity to Working Families.” Their agenda includes:

  • SB 67 by Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison (D – Birmingham) would amend the corporate income tax law to require the operations of all related entities, involved in a unitary business, file one corporate income tax return on a combined basis, known as combined reporting.
  • “Ban the box” legislation, which would allow job applicants to wait until a job is conditionally offered before disclosing their criminal background.

For the entire Senate Democrats’ agenda, click here.

Luther Strange to Replace Jeff Sessions in the U.S. Senate

The biggest news of the week did not come from the Alabama State House. After U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions was confirmed as U.S. Attorney General on Wednesday, Governor Bentley moved quickly to announce his replacement – Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange.

“I am greatly honored and humbled to accept the appointment to Alabama’s Senate seat vacated by Senator Jeff Sessions,” Strange said. “Senator Sessions’ commitment to public service is nearly unparalleled in Alabama history and his departure from the Senate leaves tremendous shoes to fill.  I pledge to the people of Alabama to continue the same level of leadership as Jeff Sessions in consistently fighting to protect and advance the conservative values we all care about.”

The Governor has announced that the Special Election for the U.S. Senate seat will be held in November 2018. Strange has already announced his intention to run for the seat.

Upcoming Legislative Agenda

The House of Representatives and Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, February 14, 2017 at 1:00 and 2:00 p.m. respectively.