Volume 24 Number 4 – April 7, 2023

The Alabama Legislature reconvened its regular session this Tuesday, April 5th, and continued another three-day legislative week. With the seventh legislative day on the books, there was a lot of movement from both chambers this week.

On Tuesday, there was quite the commotion regarding a bill that aims to ban mobile phone use while driving. Representative Laura Hall (D-Huntsville) argued that the bill could have a bigger impact on lower income individuals who may not own or be able to purchase a newer car with bluetooth capabilities. Other leaders, like House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville), Representative John Rogers (D-Birmingham), Representative Napoleon Bracy (D-Mobile), and Representative Juandalynn Givan (D-Birmingham) expressed concerns that the bill could increase instances of racial profiling. On Tuesday, the bill failed to pass on the floor and they voted to carry it over, although it could potentially be brought back later for a vote. 

The House and Senate versions of the alcohol liability bill, widely known as the Dram Shop bill, which was endorsed by many CSG clients including GUMBO, International Wines & Craft Beer, and Monday Night Brewing, passed the House  Insurance committee unanimously on Wednesday. 

Currently, Alabama is considering a strict liability state. This bill would create a wider standard, with a server having to knowingly serve a visibly intoxicated person, and for that service to be the proximate cause of the injury or death.  The proposed legislation seeks to bring common sense insurance reform and increased personal responsibility to situations where damages have taken place due to overconsumption of alcohol. Perhaps most importantly, the legislation, if passed, should help drive down the cost of liquor liability insurance for restaurant and bar owners. The House bill is anticipated to be taken up on the House floor on Tuesday. We expect that the Senate bill will be substituted on the House floor and then go to the Governor for her signature.

With the large amount of surplus dollars in the budgets, tax cuts and rebates have been a highly anticipated topic of discussion this session. On Wednesday, two bills that would decrease state income tax in the amount of $82.3 million a year, received a favorable report in the House Ways and Means Education Committee. 

One of the bills would do away with the 2% state income tax rate while the other bill would decrease the highest rate from 5% to 4.95%. Both bills are sponsored by committee Chairman Danny Garrett (R-Trussville). “These are modest tax cuts, things that would not jeopardize the budget, but they’re a step,” Garrett said following the committee meeting. “We’ve done these for the last three or four years, so when you add up those, it’s a pretty substantial number.” 

HB115 and HB116 were both unanimously approved in the House on Thursday with Speaker Ledbetter offering high praise on the initiative, “We passed a couple tax cuts today that’s going to benefit the people of Alabama, (and) as you can tell, the members were happy to do that,” Ledbetter said. Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) will sponsor both bills in the Senate.

There was also overwhelming support for the updated version of the hospital visitation bill, sponsored by Senator Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman). SB113 would require health care facilities to establish policies that would ensure in-person visits under certain scenarios, including pediatric or end-of-life patients. The bill passed with a 100-1 vote on Thursday with little opposition. The only argument came from Representative Marry Moore (D-Birmingham) who said that mandating hospital visitation rights could pose a health risk to patients. Both hospital and nursing home leaders have been heavily involved in the bill’s crafting and have vocalized satisfaction with where it stands.

This week has also included a lot of work and collaboration on the highly anticipated economic incentive bills. The reauthorization of the Alabama Jobs Act is anticipated to be taken up in committee next week in the House Ways and Means Education committee. We expect this to be a large topic of discussion next week where members may offer up amendments or substitutions before the bill hits the floor. CSG is working to ensure that tourism incentives remain a part of the Jobs Act renewal.

The Legislature will reconvene next Tuesday, April 11th with the House going in at 1:00pm and the Senate later at 3:00pm.