LEGISLATIVE REPORT – APRIL 5, 2024

Volume 25 Number 8 – 18th and 19th legislative days

The Alabama legislature reconvened its 2024 regular legislative session on Tuesday, April 2, 2024, after legislators were away for spring break. 

General Fund Budget & Supplemental Allocations Substitute Bills

On Wednesday, the Senate Finance & Taxation General Fund committee approved substitutes for SB66, the general fund supplemental funding, and SB67, the General Fund budget for FY25. Both substitutes, sponsored by Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Range), increased the funding totals compared to Governor Ivey’s original proposals with the General Fund budget at $3.3 billion and the supplemental funding at $210 million. 

Some of the major changes in the General Fund budget include an increase towards prison construction and debt service, an increase to the Alabama Department of Mental Health, eliminating $5 million for an electric vehicle infrastructure grant program, and reducing an original $16.3 million for the Alabama Department of Human Resources by $6 million. 

The supplemental budget was also increased from the original amount that Governor Ivey proposed. Some of the major changes include increasing prison construction funding from $100 million to $150 million and an additional $5M for the Alabama Port Authority.

Education Trust Fund Budget & Supplemental Allocations Substitute Bills

On Thursday, the House Ways & Means Education committee received an overview of substitute versions of the 2025 Education Trust Fund budget and supplemental appropriations both by Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville). Although the substitute versions are not available to the public currentlyt, the House proposal consists of three separate allocations: HB145, a $9.3 billion regular budget and two supplemental appropriations totaling $1.7 billion. The $11 billion total is $300 million higher than Governor Ivey’s proposal. 

Although Rep. Garrett indicated that there would be minimal changes from the Governor’s proposal, a few notable allocations in the budget and supplemental appropriations include:

  • A proposed 2% pay raise for education employees;
  • Removing $25 million for the rural broadband program due to significant federal funding grants;
  • $5 million for struggling readers beyond third grade including $500,000 for Christie Strategy Group client, Birmingham Talks/Small Magic; and
  • Reducing an originally proposed line item for the Alabama School of Healthcare Sciences in Demopolis to $20 million.

 

A vote is expected in committee on Tuesday where the substitute versions will be available to the public. 

House Votes to Take Gaming Bill to Conference Committee

After weeks of uncertainty regarding the future of gaming in Alabama, the House voted to reject Senate changes to gambling legislation and convene a conference committee. The Senate adjourned on Thursday before taking up the matter, so conference committee members cannot be assigned until next Tuesday at the earliest. 

The House in February passed a plan that would include sports betting and up to 10 casinos with table games. The Senate last month eliminated sports betting and reduced the number of potential casino sites. The Senate version would allow a state lottery, electronic wagering machines at dog tracks and several other locations and require the governor to negotiate a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.

Ethics Reform Bill Passes the House

On Tuesday, the House advanced a bill that would significantly reform the state’s ethics laws and to whom they apply. HB227 by Rep. Matt Simpson (R-Daphne) would reduce the number of people under which ethics laws apply. In general, penalties for any violations would increase and in many instances, the penalties would be handled by district attorneys or the Attorney General’s office. The bill saw only minor opposition in the House and ultimately passed with a 79-9 vote.

Labor Union Economic Incentive Bill Public Hearing

SB231, sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) passed the Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee on an 11-3 vote along party lines. The bill would withhold economic incentives from companies that voluntarily recognize unions or do not hold secret ballots in union elections. A public hearing was held during the committee meeting where dozens of labor union workers and advocates attended and strongly opposed the legislation. 

Device Filtering Bill Passes the House

On Thursday, the House passed HB167, sponsored by Rep. Chris Sells (R-Greenville), which would require smartphones, tablets and other internet-enabled devices to automatically shield minors from explicit content, and establishes significant civil penalties for manufacturers were they to not comply with the new law. The legislation would require smartphones and tablets to verify the age of the user, and were the user to be under 18, automatically enable an adult content filter. Manufacturers could face civil penalties as high as $50,000 per violation under the legislation, and could face additional consequences from the Alabama attorney general, such as having licenses or certificates to do business in the state being revoked. The bill passed unanimously, and now makes its way to the Senate.

Workforce Development Bills in Committee

Committees in both chambers of the legislature have taken up various components of the “Working for Alabama” plan. This comprehensive plan aims to boost Alabama’s workforce participation, enhance economic development, and foster community and rural development within the state. These bills saw movement in committee meetings this week and will continue to be a priority for the Legislature. The key elements of this legislative package include:

Alabama Growth Alliance (SB252/HB372): 

Both House and Senate versions of this bill received favorable reports in committee, with amendments made to the Senate version. The proposed legislation establishes the Alabama Growth Alliance, a public corporation dedicated to fostering economic development. It prioritizes initiatives such as increasing private investment within the state and supporting minority-owned businesses.

Alabama Workforce Transformation Act (SB247/HB344):

Legislation to rename the Secretary of Labor and the Department of Labor to the Secretary of Workforce and the Department of Workforce, along with alterations to the Department’s responsibilities, garnered favorable committee reports for both House and Senate versions.

Workforce Pathways Act (SB253/HB373):

Dubbed the Alabama Workforce Pathway Act, this legislation aims to create an alternative diploma program centered on career and technical education. It received a favorable report in the Senate, following amendments, and was carried over in the House committee for further work and discussion. 

Child Care Tax Credit (HB358): 

Proposed legislation to introduce childcare tax credits for both employees and employers is still pending committee action. 

Workforce Housing Tax Credit (SB250/HB346): 

This legislation, designed to establish a tax credit for eligible taxpayers involved in qualifying workforce housing projects in Alabama, is also pending committee action. 

Innovation Districts (SB242/HB349):

Receiving favorable reports in respective committees in both chambers, this legislation sets out to establish “innovation districts” as public corporations, outlining operational guidelines.

Last Actions & Bill Updates

  • HB66 – Seafood products, country of origin notification, correct name, differentiate between farm-raised and wild fish; required for food service establishments
    • Mar 21, 2024 | Senate – Second Reading Second House
  • HB8 – Property insurance, policy cancellation, nonrenewal, reduction of coverage, insurers required to provide prior written notice, circumstances under which policy cancellation, nonrenewal or coverage restriction by insurer deemed ineffective.
    • April 4, 2024 | House – Read a Third Time and Pass as Amended
  • SB150 – Taxation; creates Tourism Tax Protection Act
    • April 4, 2024 | Senate – Read a Third Time and Pass as Substituted
  • SB204 – Domestic and Foreign Corporations; annual report requirement removed
    • April 4, 2024 | Senate – Read a Third Time and Pass as Amended
  • SB254 – ATV parks, provides for permitting, inspection, operation, and fines for violations
    • April 4, 2024 | Senate – Reported Out of Committee as Amended
  • SB259 – Mixed Spirit Beverages; providing for definition, licensure, and distribution (Tourism)
    • April 2, 2024 | Senate – Re-referred to Committee in House of Origin (Tourism)
  • SB224 – Office of Occupational and Professional Licensing, created within the Department of Labor; oversight provided to professional or occupational licensing boards.
    • April 2, 2024 | Senate – Reported Out of Committee as Amended

 

Notable Bills Introduced This Week

  • SB290 – Tourism improvement districts, provides for establishment, renewal, dissolution, operation, and activities (Tourism)
  • SB285 – Entertainment Industry Incentive Act of 2009 amended, music albums included as qualified production, minimum qualifications established (Finance and Taxation Education)
  • SB293 / HB420 – Tort Reform, to regulate litigation financing agreements, vicarious liability of employers, proof of medical care expenses, and attorney advertising
  • SB302 – Fair Campaign Practices Act; definitions of electioneering communications, expenditures, and political action committee revised; reporting requirements for electioneering communications revised

 

The Legislature will reconvene on Tuesday, April 9, 2024, for the 20th legislative day.