Legislative Report – April 12, 2024

Volume 25 Number 9 – 20th and 21st legislative days

The Alabama legislature reconvened its 2024 regular legislative session on Tuesday, April 9, 2024, for a two-day legislative work week. 

Floor & Committee Votes for Workforce Development Bills

Legislators continued work on the “Working for Alabama” package, a comprehensive plan to bolster Alabama’s workforce participation rate and enhance economic development. Detailed summaries of each bill can be found in Christie Strategy Group’s last two legislative reports. 

Alabama Growth Alliance: The Senate passed SB252, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed (R-Jasper), on Tuesday. Rep. Randall Shedd (R-Baileyton) is sponsoring the House version.

Alabama Workforce Transformation Act: SB247, by Senate Majority Leader Steve Livingston (R-Scottsboro), successfully passed the Senate on Tuesday and will now head to the House where Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville) will be the House sponsor.

Workforce Pathways Act: SB253, known as the Alabama Career Pathway Act, sponsored by Sen. Donnie Chesteen (R-Geneva) also passed out of the Senate. Sen. Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman) added a floor amendment that says students who earn a Workforce Pathway diploma are eligible for admission at state colleges, but each institution can maintain its admission requirements.

The House’s Education Policy committee approved a substantially changed House version, HB373, by Rep. Kelvin Lawrence (D-Hayneville). The substitute would allow a committee in the Alabama State Department of Education to create high school diploma prerequisites for those on the Workforce Pathway. That designated committee would create the prerequisites to ensure that students are equipped with the skills to excel at a four-year institution, regardless of their choice of pathway. The bill now differs from the version the Senate approved on Tuesday. 

Child Care Tax Credit: On Wednesday, the House Ways & Means Education committee held a public hearing on HB358 where multiple people spoke both in opposition and in support of the bill. The committee carried the bill over with a vote expected next week. 

The bill would allow employers to receive up to $1 million in credits on tax liabilities, including income tax. Their eligible expenses would include the construction and operation of on-site child care or payments to off-site centers for the care of employees’ children.

The bill also creates a child care provider tax credit to encourage facilities to improve and expand and a nonprofit child care provider tax credit.

When fully implemented, the bill would have a fiscal impact of $45 million on the state’s tax revenue that supports education, according to a fiscal note.

Workforce Housing Tax Credit: The House Ways & Means Education Committee approved HB346 by Rep. Cynthia Almond (R-Tuscaloosa), which would give tax credits to developers who build affordable multi-family rental housing in areas where there is a shortage. Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Josephine) is the sponsor of the Senate version. 

Senate Adopts $3.3 Billion General Fund Budget

After significant debate on Thursday, the Senate approved a record $3.3 billion General Fund budget and $214 million supplemental spending plan.

The 2025 budget, a more than $300 million increase over the current year, represents increases for almost all the non-education state agencies in it.

Committee Approves Education Trust Fund Budget & Supplemental Spending Plan

The House Ways & Means Education committee approved a record $9.3 billion budget for fiscal year 2025 and a $651.2 million supplemental spending bill for the current year. Funding is split 68.2% for K-12 education and 25.6% higher education. About 6% goes to other agencies. Notable allocations include:

  • Additional one-time funding for K-12 schools, colleges, and universities;
  • $20 million for a health care-training focused high school in Demopolis;
  • $20 million toward the new State House under construction in Montgomery; 
  • $51 million to start the recently approved school choice law that will allow some families to receive tax credits when attending private schools; and
  • A 2% raise in 2025 for K-12 and two-year college educators and support staff.

Bill to Prohibit State Contracts with China-Related Companies

The Senate passed legislation on Tuesday that would prohibit any department or agency of the state of Alabama and local jurisdiction from entering into or renewing a contract with an entity that utilizes information or communication technology created in China. SB220, by Sen. Dan Roberts (R-Mountain Brook), would also provide criminal and civil penalties for a violation as high as $250,000.00 or twice the amount of the contract, whichever is greater. 

Many different industries and business organizations have come out in opposition to the bill due to vague wording, severe penalties, and concerns over significantly increased costs if forced to change to vendors or products that are made domestically. The bill has not been received by the House at this time and the future of the bill is unclear. 

Public Hearing on Blocked Crossing Bill

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary committee held a public hearing for a blocked crossings bill that would deem a train that blocks a railroad-highway grade crossing for two or more continuous hours to be a public nuisance and would levy a civil penalty of $7,500 for each additional hour the train blocks the crossing. HB348 was introduced by Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville) who referred to a local circumstance where emergency personnel were blocked by a stopped train in Trussville and were delayed in accessing a patient. 

Several railway professionals spoke during the hearing emphasizing that the railway industry actively coordinates with state and local officials to notify and prevent blocked crossings. In addition, railways continue to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in local infrastructure throughout Alabama and provide assistance to local municipalities and counties with grant applications and opportunities to prevent blocked crossings. The committee did not vote on the bill after the hearing, but it is back on the committee agenda for a vote next week.

Last Actions & Bill Updates

  • HB164 – Consumer Protection; online distribution of material harmful to minors, prohibited; online age-verification requirements, required
    • Apr 11, 2024 | House – Enrolled

Notable Bills Introduced This Week

  • SB319 – State agencies; settlement agreements for claims against the state restricted when funds not available (Finance and Taxation General Fund)
  • HB441 – Growing Alabama Act, Innovating Alabama Act, Alabama Jobs Act, Innovate Alabama, allow existing communities to qualify for incentives (Ways and Means Education)
  • HB448 – Elections; revise dates for submissions to qualify on ballot (Constitution, Campaigns and Elections)
  • SB306 – Medical Cannabis Commission; process for issuing integrated facility licenses revised, duties of Department of Agriculture and Industries revised
  • SB313 – Prohibit “balance billing” by ground ambulances (Banking and Insurance)
  • SB309 – Relating to sales taxes; to provide for the additional state sales tax rate in ABC retail stores.

The Legislature will reconvene on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, for the 22nd legislative day.