Legislative Report 032318

Volume 19 Number 11 – March 23, 2018

21st, 22nd, & 23rd legislative days

Rural Broadband Bill Delivered to the Governor

SB 149, which establishes the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund, received final approval by the legislature this week and was delivered to the Governor for her signature.

The House of Representatives approved the bill late Tuesday night. As mentioned last week, the House Ways and Means – Education committee changed the bill from a tax credit program to a grant program administered by ADECA.

The Senate-passed bill would have exempted broadband telecommunications network facilities from taxation for 10 years, exempted equipment and materials used by those facilities from the state’s sales and use tax, and would have offered an income tax credit equal to 10 percent of the investment in those facilities. Total tax credits would have been capped at $20 million per company.

The House committee substitute offers grants at two tiers to pay for up to 20 percent of a broadband project’s total cost – 1) a cap of $1.4 million per project that offers speeds of 25 megabits per second download and three megabits per second upload or, 2) a cap of $750,000 per project for 10/1 speeds.

Companies would apply for grants, providing detailed information about what areas and residents would be served. Cooperatives would be eligible for the grants, but government entities could not receive the money, preventing the spread of municipal broadband projects through this program.

Legislators hope that the program can be used in conjunction with the federal funding included for broadband in the FY 2018 Omnibus Spending Package that was signed by President Trump today.

Governor Ivey is expected to sign the bill shortly.

Data Breach Notification Bill Approved by House

Prior to the Alabama House of Representatives going into session on Thursday, Alabama was just one of two states remaining in the country without a data breach notification requirement in place. During Thursday’s session, members voted 101 – 0 to approve a bill that would require that consumers be notified if their data is compromised due to a breach.

The bill, SB318, was sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr (R – Decatur) and was primarily handled on the House floor by Rep. Phil Williams (R – Huntsville). The primary justification for this bill stems from recent large-scale data breaches from companies like Equifax, where consumers were not informed immediately that their data may have been compromised.

SB318 passed the Senate on March 1st and will return to that body for a vote to concur on minor changes made in the House.

General Fund Budget Approved

The FY 2019 General Fund Budget cleared its last legislative hurdle on Wednesday and was sent to the Governor for her signature. On Thursday, Governor Ivey signed several pieces of legislation that passed in conjunction with the budget, such as the three percent state employee pay raise, 2.5 percent teacher pay raise, and the one-time bonus for retirees.

The General Fund’s counterpart, the Education Trust Fund, is stuck in conference committee awaiting a committee report in order to keep moving. The signing of the General Fund marks the completion of half of the work legally required by the legislature before the end of the session, which is slated for next week.

Bill to Arm Teachers Dead

A bill by Rep. Will Ainsworth (R – Guntersville) to allow some school systems to designate teachers who receive training and approval from local officials to have guns in schools did not come up for consideration Tuesday in the House, effectively killing it for this session.

Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R – Monrovia) said the issue will be revisited by the legislature next year.

Ainsworth said he would continue to push for the legislation even though he conceded it does not have time to pass this session. Ainsworth is not running for reelection, but is a candidate for lieutenant governor.

“I plan to return to Montgomery in one form or another next year, and I will continue pushing for this legislation until our students and teachers are properly protected, and our classrooms are properly defended,” Ainsworth said.

Ainsworth said he was gathering signatures from House members who would support asking the governor to call a special session on school safety issues.

Upcoming Legislative Schedule

The House of Representatives and Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, March 27, 2018, for the final two legislative days of the 2018 session. Although legislators will have five legislative days remaining after next week, they are expected to adjourn sine die on Wednesday.

The House will convene at 11:00 a.m. and the Senate will convene at 2:00 p.m.