Legislative Report 022417

Volume 18 Number 3 – February 24, 2017

5th & 6th legislative days

Senate Approves Changes to Alabama Accountability Act

The Senate voted 17 – 15 on Thursday to approve SB 123 by Sen. Del Marsh (R – Anniston). The bill expands options for tax credits for donors to the Alabama Accountability Act (AAA).

Last year, donors claimed $19.9 million in income tax credits for donations to the scholarship granting organizations. That was down from $25.8 million in 2015 and below the $30 million cap.

The bill would allow companies to receive a credit on their utility gross receipts tax for scholarship donation and allow taxpayers and companies to claim larger portions of their tax liability as credits.

Currently, taxpayers and companies can receive a dollar-for-dollar credit on their income taxes for donations to scholarship granting organizations (SGOs).

For individual taxpayers, the credit cannot exceed 50 percent of their tax liability, or $50,000. Marsh’s bill would allow credits for up to 100 percent of tax liability up to $100,000.

Currently, corporations can receive income tax credits for up to 50 percent of their tax liability. Marsh’s bill would raise that to 75 percent.

Companies with a tax liability of at least $100,000 in utility gross receipts tax could receive a credit for up to 75 percent of that tax liability for donations to scholarship organizations.

Legislature Considering Bills to Require Specific Autism Treatment Coverage

Rep. Jim Patterson (R – Huntsville) and Sen. Tom Whatley (R – Auburn) are each carrying legislation that would require insurers to provide coverage for Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) – a behavioral therapy for children with autism.

Sen. Whatley’s legislation would cap coverage at $36,000 per year for children under age nine and only apply to employers with 50 or more employees. Rep. Patterson’s bill has no caps and would require all employers – small, medium, and large – to provide coverage as part of their employee benefit plans.

Both bills would also apply to the State Employee Benefit Plan (SEIB), the Public Employees’ Education Health Insurance Plan (PEEHIP), and the Alabama Local Government Health Insurance, which covers 541 counties, cities, boards and authorities throughout Alabama.

In 2012, the Alabama legislature passed the “Riley Ward Act,” which gives employers the option to provide these benefits when renewing each year. The Autism Society of Alabama supported the act and made Alabama the only state in the nation to require that all insurers offer autism spectrum disorder treatment to its large group customers. The legislation also resulted in the definition of covered benefits for autistic children, recognized Autism Spectrum Disorder as a disease, and resulted in greatly expanded therapy coverage for autistic children.

The bills have not yet received a committee hearing, but have been referred to the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee and House Insurance Committee.

Senator Rusty Glover to Run for Lieutenant Governor

On Wednesday, Sen. Rusty Glover (R – Mobile) announced he would run for Lt. Governor in 2018. Incumbent Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey, also a Republican, has served two terms in the position and cannot seek a third.

The lieutenant governor used to have powers comparable to that of the Speaker of the House, with the ability to appoint committee members and a strong voice in the flow of legislation. But after the election of Republican Steve Windom to the chair in 1998, the Senate, then controlled by Democrats, transferred most of those powers to the Senate President Pro Tem. The Republican Party, which has controlled the Legislature since 2010, has elected to keep those arrangements.

The lieutenant governor’s responsibilities now include presiding over the Senate, breaking ties and deciding points of order, and making appointments to some boards and commissions. The lieutenant governor also becomes governor if the governor dies or is removed from office.

Glover, a retired high school history teacher, won election to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2002. He served a single term before winning election to the Alabama Senate in 2006 and is currently in his third term.

Representative Micky Hammon Resigns as House Majority Leader

Rep. Micky Hammon (R – Decatur) announced on Wednesday that he would resign his position as House Majority Leader.

Last week, the House Republican Caucus held a vote of confidence on Rep. Hammon, which he won by a single vote. After the vote, Rep. Ed Henry (R – Hartselle) told the press that there was an “absolute chasm” dividing the caucus.

“After much thought and careful consideration, I have decided to step down from my position as House Majority Leader once an election for the post is held next week,” Hammon said in a news release.

“The Democrat Caucus elected a new minority leader earlier this month, and after serving in my role for the past six years, it is time for House Republicans to have new leadership, as well.

“I’m forever grateful that my GOP colleagues elected me as their leader over two separate quadrenniums, and while I will not be serving as quarterback in the future, I’ll continue to be a proud member of the Republican team and will do everything in my power to help pass our agenda and other conservative reform measures,” Hammon said.

Hammon has been majority leader since Republicans took control of the House in 2010. It is unclear who will now be elected to the position.

Four Senators Drafting Impeachment Rules

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Cam Ward (R – Alabaster) appointed four Senators to begin drafting rules that would govern an impeachment trial of Gov. Robert Bentley should the House of Representatives impeach the governor.

Sen. Phil Williams (R – Rainbow City) will chair the subcommittee, which will also include Sen. Greg Albritton (R – Range), Sen. Hank Sanders (D – Selma), and Sen. Bobby Singleton (D – Greensboro). They met for the first time on Thursday.

The Alabama Constitution authorizes impeachment of the governor by the House and a trial in the Senate. Bentley would be removed from office upon impeachment by the House and could only return if acquitted by the Senate. It would take a two-thirds vote to the convict the governor in the Senate.

Other than those guidelines, the Constitution has few details about how impeachment works.

Upcoming Legislative Schedule

The House of Representatives and Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, February 28, 2017 at 1:00 and 2:00 p.m. respectively.