Volume 24 Number 5 – April 14, 2023

The Alabama Legislature reconvened its Regular Session on Tuesday, April 11th with a major focus of the week being economic development incentives. 

The House started the day on Tuesday by spending several hours debating a bill carried by Sen. April Weaver (R-Brierfield) that will reduce the use of good behavior incentives to shorten prison stays. It passed by a vote of 79-24. The legislation is named after slain Bibb County Deputy Brad Johnson. The bill had previously passed the Senate and headed to Governor Ivey’s desk on Tuesday for her signature. 

The DRAM Shop bill, a liquor liability bill sponsored by Rep. David Faulkner (R-Vestavia Hills), received unanimous support and approval in the House on Tuesday with a vote of 104-0.  The Senate version by Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Josephine) was substituted on the floor, so the bill now heads to Governor Ivey’s office for signage.

Although we haven’t seen any floor action on reducing or eliminating the State’s grocery tax, there has been a lot of commotion and grassroots efforts in support of the concept. On Tuesday, the Alabama Republican Party released a survey of registered voters showing significant support from the public for removing the sales tax on food. A few legislators that have spoken on the topic include Sen. Merika Coleman (D-Pleasant Grove) and Sen. Arthur Orr (D-Decatur), as well as a public supporter of the tax removal, Lieutenant Governor Ainsworth. 

House bill 270 by Rep. Shane Stringer (R-Citronelle) would restrict the location or expansion of junkyards under certain circumstances. Junkyards are defined as “an establishment or place of business which is maintained, operated, or used for storing, keeping, buying, or selling junk, or for the maintenance or operation of an automobile graveyard. This definition includes scrap metal processors, auto-wrecking yards, salvage yards, scrap yards, auto-recycling yards, used auto parts yards, and temporary storage of automobile bodies or parts awaiting disposal.” The bill faces significant opposition and was carried over in the new Ports, Waterways & Intermodal Transit Committee on Wednesday. It has been placed on the committee agenda for action next Wednesday.   

Much of the attention this week surrounded Governor Ivey’s recently announced package of four economic development bills otherwise known as “The Game Plan.”

The first bill in the package, the Enhancing Economic Progress Act, was sponsored by Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville). This bill would  expand the Alabama Jobs Act cap by $25 million annually as well as expand the Growing Alabama cap by $35 million.

There was a substantial new provision offered that adds new tourism incentive language, the Sweet Home Alabama Tourism Investment Act, that is intended to improve previously written language from the original Alabama Jobs Act. The amendment passed and was included in the final House version of the bill. This is a major victory for the tourism industry, led by Christie Strategy Group and GUMBO, that will open up new opportunities for companies to continue developing tourism destination projects across Alabama.

The second bill of the package, the Site Evaluation and Economic Development Strategy Act (SEEDS), would allow the State Industrial Development Authority to issue grants incentivizing and aiding local site development. Carried by Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), SEEDS would primarily award two kinds of grants: appraisal awards and improvement awards. On Tuesday, the bill was amended in the Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee, reducing the original requirement of 200 contiguous acres for “eligible” land to 75 acres.

The third economic incentive bill in the package, the Innovation Act, was carried by Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville). This bill will direct grants specifically toward underserved areas and underrepresented groups through the state’s public-private partnership, Innovate Alabama

The final bill of the package would require Alabama’s economic incentive data to be shared more publicly, requiring the Commerce Department to publish data on everything from job numbers to average wages related to incentive projects. 

On Thursday, the House approved the four-bill package with little debate. Final passage of all four bills will likely occur next week.

Next week is expected to be busy with the General Fund budget in committee on Wednesday. Chairman Rex Reynolds (R-Huntsville) and the committee are expected to make several changes to the Governor’s proposed budget. 

The Alabama Legislature will reconvene its Regular Session next Tuesday, April 18th, 2023.