Legislative Report – April 9, 2021

Volume 22 Number 8 – April 9, 2021

19th, 20th, & 21st legislative days

Senate takes up lottery bills

The Senate, on Wednesday, delayed a vote on Sen. Jim McClendon’s (R – Springville) bill to authorize a lottery in the state after the threat of a filibuster and an effort to change the bill to authorize casinos. Sen. McClendon feared he did not have enough votes to pass the bill and opted to carry the bill over rather than lose the vote on the floor.

The bill, if lawmakers and voters approve, would authorize a lottery where tickets could be sold at stores, kiosks, and through a phone app.

Earlier in the day, Senators approved the bill that would set up the governing structure and how revenues would be divided for a potential Alabama lottery. But, the legislation is useless without the constitutional amendment authorizing the lottery.

A few weeks ago, Senators rejected a more comprehensive gaming proposal that included full casino gaming and a lottery. Sen. Del Marsh (R – Anniston), the sponsor of that legislation, has said he does not think there is enough support in the Senate for a straight lottery bill; he believes a more comprehensive approach is necessary.

Conversations continue between the House, Senate, and Governor’s office. Governor Ivey has signaled her support for a more comprehensive approach, but she has not proposed specific legislation. If an agreement is not reached during this legislative session, one or more Special Sessions may be called to address gaming and other issues.

Senate committee approves wine shipment/franchise legislation

On Thursday, the Senate Tourism Committee approved HB 437 by Rep. Terri Collins (R – Decatur). The bill will allow for the direct shipment of wine from a manufacturer. It also sets up statewide wine franchise protections for wine wholesalers in the state. Franchise protections are already law in Jefferson, Mobile, Montgomery, Baldwin, and Shelby counties.

Christie Strategy Group, on behalf of International Wines and Craft Beer, has worked closely with Rep. Collins to ensure that franchise protections were included in the substitute along with other compromise language limiting the scope of wine shipment.

The bill has been negotiated between The Wine Institute, who represents the manufacturers, wine/beer wholesalers, and the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABC). All parties came to an agreement on the bill that was approved by the Senate committee.

The bill could be on the Senate floor as early as next Tuesday.

Agreement reached on pharmacy benefit manager legislation

After extensive negotiations between pharmacists, business groups, insurance providers, and others, an agreement was reached on SB 227 by Sen. Tom Butler (R – Madison), which increases regulation of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs).

In its original form, the bill would have significantly increased premiums for employers and employees. Many companies and the state use PBMs to aid in lowering drug prices for their employees, which leads to lower premiums. Drug prices are the fastest growing expense in healthcare.

The Senate voted 32 – 0 to approve the bill. It now goes to House committee.

Upcoming legislative schedule 

The House of Representatives and Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, April 13, 2021, at 1:00 and 1:30 p.m., respectively.