Legislative Report 030918

Volume 19 Number 9 – March 9, 2018

17th & 18th legislative days

Senate Approves Payday Lending Regulation Bill

The Senate approved SB 138 by Sen. Arthur Orr (R – Decatur) by a vote of 20 – 4 on Thursday. The bill would set the term for all payday loans at 30 calendar days. The current term for payday loans is between 10 and 31 calendar days.

By requiring a 30-day term, the legislation would cut in half the rate lenders are allowed to charge borrowers, which could put many payday lenders out of business.

The bill has been referred to the House Financial Services Committee.

House Committee Quickly Approves General Fund Budget

On Wednesday, the House Ways and Means – General Fund Committee approved the $2 billion General Fund budget and a three percent raise for state workers and bonus for retirees.

The $2 billion budget, the largest in a decade, increases spending in many departments. The biggest single increase — $55 million — goes to the Alabama Department of Corrections to increase staffing and implement a new health care contract for improving mental health care for the state’s 21,000 inmates.

Alabama Medicaid ($53 million), Alabama Department of Mental Health ($8.9 million), Alabama Department of Human Resources ($3.1 million), and the Alabama Department of Public Health ($2.4 million) would all receive increases under the proposal.

The budget is fairly stable this year, which has lead to its smooth sailing through the legislature. The House will take it up on Tuesday.

House Approves Bill to Clarify Lobbying Activity

The House of Representatives passed HB 317 by Rep. Ken Johnson (R – Moulton) on Tuesday. The legislation exempts economic development professionals from lobbying regulations. The bill passed 79 – 7 after several hours of the debate.

The bill creates a specific exemption for economic developers, defined as a person who works full-time on economic development or works part-time and is “pre-certified” by the Alabama Ethics Commission or its executive director. The bill says the term “does not include public officials, public employees, employees of lobbyists, or persons who are otherwise lobbyists.”

Some say the bill weakens the state’s ethics laws, but proponents say the bill is necessary to help Alabama keep a competitive advantage when recruiting industry to the state.

The bill now goes to the Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee.

Upcoming Legislative Schedule

The House of Representatives and Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, March 13, 2018 at 1:00 and 3:00, respectively. Next week is supposed to be a three-day work week, which means they will conduct legislative business on the floor of the House and Senate on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

Right now, sine die is proposed as March 26, but that could change.