LEGISLATIVE REPORT – APRIL 19, 2024

Volume 25 Number 10 – 22nd and 23rd legislative days

The Alabama legislature reconvened its 2024 regular legislative session on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, for a two-day legislative work week. 

Working for Alabama Package Continues to Advance

This week, both chambers continued to address the workforce package bills designed to improve the State’s workforce participation rate. Detailed summaries of each bill can be found in Christie Strategy Group’s recent legislative reports. 

Alabama Growth Alliance: 

On Thursday, the House passed SB252, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed (R-Jasper) and Rep. Randall Shedd (R-Baileyton), after adopting a committee substitute and multiple floor amendments. The bill now heads back to the Senate to address the changes made in the House. 

Alabama Workforce Transformation Act:

The House passed SB247 by Senate Majority Leader Steve Livingston (R-Scottsboro) and Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville) on Thursday without changes. It now heads to the Governor’s desk for final signature. 

Workforce Pathways Act:

SB253 passed the House on Thursday with a floor amendment from Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur). The bill was sponsored by Sen. Donnie Chesteen (R-Geneva) and carried by Rep. Kelvin Lawrence (D-Hayneville) in the House. It now heads back to the Senate for approval of the House changes.

Child Care Tax Credit: 

The House also passed HB358, sponsored by Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville), on Thursday. The bill now awaits action in the Senate Finance and Taxation Education committee. Sen. Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman) is the sponsor of the Senate version.

Workforce Housing Tax Credit: 

The House approved HB346 by Rep. Cynthia Almond (R-Tuscaloosa). The bill was referred to the Senate Finance and Taxation Education committee and awaits approval. Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Josephine) is the sponsor of the Senate version. 

House Passes Education Trust Fund Budget & Supplemental Spending Plan

The House approved a record $9.3 billion education budget on Tuesday for fiscal year 2025, a $550 million increase over this year’s budget. Members also adopted two supplemental education spending bills totaling more than $1.6 billion. The proposals now go to the Senate. 

Secret Ballot Union Elections Bill Advances

On Tuesday, the Senate voted in favor of a bill making companies ineligible for state economic incentive dollars under certain circumstances. Under existing law, a labor union may be recognized by an employer if a majority of employees sign pledge cards indicating they wish to join the union. SB231, sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), would require companies to repay state economic incentive dollars if they grant recognition rights based on signed pledge cards or if the company voluntarily discloses personal contact information to a labor organization without written consent from the employee. These changes would effectively require unions  to hold secret ballot elections. The rule would apply to incentive deals brokered between the state and a company after Jan. 1, 2025. 

An important amendment was added to the bill on the Senate floor by Sen. Orr  at the request of the business community. This amendment allows companies already located in Alabama with union operations to preserve economic development incentives, if future expansions become unionized at a later date. 

On Wednesday, the House Commerce & Small Business committee gave the bill a favorable report. Majority Leader Scott Stadthagen (R-Hartselle) is sponsoring the House version. The bill now awaits a vote on the House floor. 

Public Hearing Held on RTD Compromise Bill

During a public hearing on Wednesday, the Senate Tourism Committee heard several speakers in both support and opposition to a compromise bill to allow “ready-to-drink” spirits to be sold next to beer and other alcoholic beverages in grocery and convenience stores. SB259, sponsored by Sen. Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro), would permit RTD spirits with an alcohol by volume of up to 8% to be sold outside of Alcoholic Beverage Control Board stores and private package stores, expanding the availability of RTD spirits from less than 1,000 locations to more than 4,600. The bill also includes franchise language that would require exclusive sales territories to be established between RTD spirit producers and wholesalers, an inclusion that has drawn the ire of  soft drink distributors. The committee did not vote on the bill and no further action is expected on this issue this year.

Controversial Tourism Improvement Districts Public Hearing 

A public hearing was held Wednesday morning in the Senate Tourism committee where proponents and opponents expressed their views on the bill that would enable local municipalities to establish and approve a “tourism improvement district.” A Tourism Improvement District (TID) is a designated area where certain businesses within the district agree to impose an additional fee on themselves to fund various tourism-related initiatives and improvements. 

SB290, sponsored by Sen. Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills), would serve as enabling legislation at the state-level in order to regulate and codify the process statewide rather than requiring each potential TID to pass a local bill allowing the process to go forward. This legislation is supported by the Alabama Association of Direct Marketing Organizations (AADMO), the Department of Tourism, and the Alabama Tourism Partnership (ATP). The Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Association (ARHA) is opposed to the current bill as written. 

A representative from ARHA spoke in opposition to the bill and expressed how the “assessment” would be an undue financial burden on the businesses within the proposed districts that do not support creation of the TID. Currently, the legislation provides that 55% of the affected businesses may approve the TID and assess a fee on all businesses within the district, even the 45% that vote in opposition. The committee did not vote on the bill and no further action is anticipated on the bill this session.

Senate Agrees to Conference Committee on Gaming

On Tuesday, the Senate voted to non-concur and go to conference and work out differences between the two versions of HB151 and HB152. The six lawmakers assigned to the conference committee are Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Atmore), Sen. Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman), Sen. Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro), Rep. Andy Whitt (R-Harvest), Rep. Chris Blackshear (R-Phenix City), and Rep. Sam Jones (D-Mobile). The conference committee is expected to meet next week and the outcome of these discussions remains very uncertain.

Last Actions & Bill Updates

HB258 – Simplified Sellers Use Tax; to levy an additional amount based on current sales tax rates to be distributed to municipalities and counties – Apr 16, 2024 | House – Carried Over to the Call of the Chair

HB164 – Consumer Protection; online distribution of material harmful to minors, prohibited; online age-verification requirements, required – Apr 16, 2024 | Senate – Signature Requested

HB73 – Real Property Tax Assessment – Apr 18, 2024 | Senate – Read for the Second Time and Placed on the Calendar

SB92 – Sex-based terms, defined vital statistics, report sex as male or female at birth requires, legislative policy regarding sex and gender identity established – Apr 18, 2024 | Senate – Carried Over

HB163 – Alabama School of Healthcare Sciences Bill – Apr 18, 2024 | Senate – Pending Committee Action in Second House

SB103 – Air ambulances, exempt from SHPDA and Certificate of Need – Apr 18, 2024 | Senate – Read for the Second Time and Placed on the Calendar

SB113 – Sunset law; Alcoholic Beverage Control Board continued until October 1, 2028 – Apr 18, 2024 | House – Read for the Second Time and Placed on the Calendar

Notable Bills Introduced This Week

HB468 – Unemployment compensation, unemployed individual required to contact an increased number of prospective employers for each week of unemployment claimed; further providing for the meaning of failure to seek or accept suitable work (Commerce and Small Business)

SB330 – Relating to the Alabama Jobs Act, amends definition of renewable generation facility (Transportation and Energy)

SB331 / HB441 – Growing Alabama Act, Innovating Alabama Act, Alabama Jobs Act, Innovate Alabama, allow existing communities to qualify for incentives (Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development)

SB359 – Campaign advertisements; rates charged by broadcasting stations limited to lowest unit rate in certain circumstances

The Legislature will reconvene on Tuesday, April 23, 2024, for the 24th legislative day.