Legislative Report – April 2, 2021

Volume 22 Number 7 – April 2, 2021

17th & 18th legislative days

House approves Foundation Program changes

On Thursday, the Alabama House of Representatives overwhelmingly supported legislation to revise the state Foundation Program to reflect growth that occurs during a school year.

Under the state’s current funding structure, systems are required to fund the growth between state allocations through local funding.  For some of the systems with the largest growth, that can add up to hundreds of students and millions of dollars each year.

SB 9 by Sen. Chris Elliott (R – Fairhope) would change the State of Alabama’s Foundation Program to allow for estimated growth during a current school year based on the actual growth in that system in the previous year.

School systems that did not grow during the previous year would be funded as currently provided.  The end result is that school systems that are growing rapidly won’t have to wait a year for increased per student funding and systems that are static or losing students will not be penalized.

Earlier this year, Sen. Elliott was quoted in the media saying, “This legislation will provide front end funding for these students so that they receive funding in year one.  Historically, these fast growing school districts have received little to no funding for these new students.”

SB 9 is now being transmitted to Governor Ivey for review and probable signature.

Alcohol delivery bills pass the House

Two bills that would allow home delivery and shipment of alcohol passed the House on Thursday.

SB 126 from Sen. Jabo Waggoner (R – Vestavia) would allow customers to have wine, beer, and spirits delivered from grocery or liquor stores and restaurants. It also sets up a delivery license process, fees, and rules for alcohol delivery.

The bill limits the amount of beer that could be delivered per customer per day to the equivalent of 120 12-ounces of beer, 12 750-mL bottles of wine or 9,000 mL of liquor. Restaurants would be allowed to sell 375 mL for patrons.

A person 21 and older would have to be present to receive the delivery and orders could not be made in dry counties or municipalities.Those seeking an alcohol delivery license would have to pay a $100 application fee and a license fee of $250. An amendment was added ensuring that brewpubs and distilleries could also have their products delivered.

The bill passed with a final vote of 79-12 and now goes back to the Senate for concurrence.

A separate bill allowing customers to have wine shipped directly from wineries to their homes also passed the House of Representatives. House Bill 437 from Rep. Terri Collins (R – Decatur) would allow wineries to ship up to 12 cases of wine per resident, per year.

The bill also sets up a licensing process to regulate shippers. A company looking for a license would have to pay a $200 application fee and a $100 annual license fee.

Unlike the grocery delivery bill, Collins said her bill would allow wine to be shipped to homes in dry counties or municipalities.

The bill also contains statewide wine franchise language, which is very important to in-state wine wholesalers such as Christie Strategy Group client, International Wines & Craft Beer.

Franchise protections are already law in Jefferson, Mobile, Montgomery, Baldwin, and Shelby counties. Christie Strategy Group has worked closely with Rep. Collins to ensure that franchise protections were included in the bill along with other compromise language limiting the scope of wine shipment.

The bill passed 83 – 7 and now goes to the Senate.

Essential business bill goes to Governor

On Thursday, the Senate approved HB 103 by Rep. Jamie Keil (R – Russellville), which would allow businesses and places of worship to remain open as long as they comply with any emergency order, rules or regulations issued by the governor and state or local agencies.

Kiel has said small local retailers shouldn’t have been forced to close last year under public health orders while big box stores remained open.

Democrats called the bill dangerous and said it could lead to super-spreader events in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Sen. Bobby Singleton (D – Greensboro) led Senate Democrats in a filibuster of the bill, arguing it put business interests over public health. He also proposed an amendment that said the State House may not be closed to the public while the Legislature is in session and dared Republicans to vote it down. The amendment was approved 25 – 6 with Democrats voting against it.

The bill passed the Senate 26 – 6 and the House quickly concurred 95 – 1. It now goes to the Governor for her signature.

Election update

Former Sen. Cam Ward’s appointment as Director of the Board of Pardons and Paroles and former Rep. Matt Fridy’s election to the Court of Civil Appeals left two vacancies in Shelby County. On Tuesday, voters went to the polls to select Ward and Fridy’s replacements.

Former Rep. April Weaver (R – Brierfield), who resigned from the House in 2020 to take an appointment at the US Department of Health and Human Services, received 82% of the vote in the Senate race and now goes to the general election in July where she will face Democrat Virginia Applebaum.

The House race is headed for a runoff between Army veteran Kenneth Paschal and Helena city council member Leigh Hulsey. Paschal received 27% of the vote and Hulsey received 30%. They will face off on April 27 and the winner will go on to face Democrat Sheridan Black in July.

Upcoming legislative schedule

The House of Representatives and Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, April 6, 2021, at 1:00 and 2:30, respectively.