Legislative Report – May 24, 2019

Volume 20 Number 9 – May 24, 2019

22nd, 23rd & 24th legislative days

Senate Approves General Fund Budget; House Committee Approves Education Trust Fund Budget

On Tuesday, the Senate approved the $2.1 billion state general fund budget by a unanimous vote. The House moved to non-concur on the budget, so it now goes to conference committee.

The budget sets aside an extra $7 million for the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) to hire 50 new state troopers, increases the Department of Corrections’ budget by $46 million, and includes a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment for state employees.

The House Ways and Means – Education Committee approved a $7.1 billion Education Trust Fund (ETF) budget on Wednesday. If approved in its current form, the education budget would be the largest in Alabama since before the Great Recession.

The approved budget generally provides increases for most education programs and the state’s four-year programs. It would also give a 4 percent cost of living increase to teachers in the state and fully fund a request for insurance made by the Public Education Employees Health Insurance Program (PEEHIP), which could prevent premium and insurance increases over the next several years.

The committee also restored an increase in the state’s pre-kindergarten program from about $25.2 million to $28.2 million, the level approved by the Alabama Senate. Poole said the House budget had $3 million for professional development related to pre-k, but that in the end they decided to put money toward expanding classrooms.

The budget would also increase community college funding by $28.8 million, an increase of 7.5 percent over the current budget. The state’s four-year colleges all received minimum increases of 6 percent.

Both the General Fund and the Education Trust Fund budget are each putting $17.5 million toward the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides health care coverage to children whose families make up to 317 percent of the poverty line, or $67,616 for a family of three, with sliding scale fees that increase along with income.

The ETF will be on the House floor on Tuesday.

House Sponsor says Lottery Bill Dead

Rep. Steve Clouse (R – Ozark), the House sponsor of the lottery bill, said Wednesday that the bill is dead for this session.

It would take 63 votes, three-fifths of the House membership, to pass the proposed constitutional amendment.

This year, the lottery passed the Senate with the minimum 21 votes needed. Tuesday night, it fell one vote shy on a procedural vote needed to bring it up for debate in the House.

The Senate-passed bill would have split the net lottery revenue between the General Fund, the Alabama Trust Fund, and a reserve account for the General Fund. The House committee substitute directed 75 percent of net revenue to the General Fund and 25 percent to the Education Trust Fund.

Rep. Clouse said opposition came from lawmakers opposed to any type of gambling and those who wanted a lottery to include electronic gaming machines in Greene and Macon counties as part of the plan.

Bill to Allow Beer Manufacturer to Own Brewpub Approved by House Committee

SB 404 by Sen. Rodger Smitherman (D – Birmingham) would allow a small craft brewery to own a brewpub in Alabama, but would only permit the transfer of alcoholic beverages from the manufacturer to the brewpub through a wholesaler. The bill was substituted and approved by the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee on Wednesday.

The substitute added a provision that would provide that the privilege or excise tax on beer is levied at the time the beer is allocated by the brewery or brewpub for the purpose of retail sale before being dispensed for consumption. This provision provides a significant tax cut for all breweries/brewpubs.

The bill is now poised for passage by the full House.

Monday Night Brewing, a craft brewery based in Atlanta and client of Christie Strategy Group, has signed a contingent lease as part of the Denham Building project in downtown Birmingham. This bill is necessary to allow Monday Night Brewing to move forward with the development.

Upcoming Legislative Schedule

The House of Representatives and Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 at 2:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., respectively.

The legislature is expected to adjourn sine die on Thursday, May 30.