Legislative Report – February 10, 2022

Volume 23 Number 5 – February 10, 2022

Senate approves broadband bills

On Thursday, the Senate quickly approved three broadband expansion bills – SB 123, SB 124, and SB 125 – all sponsored by Sen. Clay Scofield (R – Guntersville).

SB123

Under the Connect Alabama Act of 2021, the minimum service threshold for Internet is defined as the minimum speed necessary to meet certain federal requirements. This bill would increase the minimum service threshold for Internet and would authorize the Alabama Digital Expansion Division chief to enter into nondisclosure agreements to protect provider-specific information unless release of the information is expressly authorized by the service provider.

SB123 would also allow for all funds received by the Connect Alabama Fund to be used to extend last-mile infrastructure in unserved areas and for middle mile and line extension programs. The bill would permit program funds to be modified annually by recommendation from the Alabama Digital Expansion Division and approval by the Alabama Digital Expansion Authority.

SB124

This bill would revise the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) Broadband Accessibility Grant program and its application process. SB124 would enable government entities to participate in the program and would require an entity to have contributed its statewide broadband service availability information to the Alabama broadband mapping program over the past year to qualify for a grant.

It would also increase the minimum service threshold for high-speed broadband services from 25 to 100 megabits per second of download speed and from three to 100 megabits per second of upload speed.

SB125

This bill proposes a constitutional amendment which, if ratified, would allow a state, county, or municipality to grant federal award funds or any other source of funding designated for broadband infrastructure to any public or private entity for the purpose of providing or expanding broadband infrastructure. Additionally, this bill would require any such grant funds to a private entity from a county or municipality to be approved at a public meeting.

The bills now head to the House Urban and Rural Development Committee.

House approves abuse registry legislation 

HB 105 by Rep. Victor Gaston (R – Mobile) would require the Alabama Department of Human Resources to create the Alabama Elder and Adult in Need of Protective Services Abuse Registry that would include the names of people found to have committed abuse and/or neglect against the elderly or adults in need of protective services. The bill also requires certain care providers to check the registry before hiring prospective employees.

The registry would be similar to the existing Central Registry on Child Abuse and Neglect, which is used to protect children from individuals found to be responsible for child abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

HB105 has 23 co-sponsors on both sides of the aisle. The Senate version, SB 169 by Sen. Vivian Figures (D – Mobile), has 27 Senate co-sponsors and was approved by the Senate on Thursday.

Workforce bill approved in committee

HB 241 by Rep. Terri Collins (R – Decatur) would make it easier for Alabamians to find information about the workforce credentials available to them and the jobs those credentials could help them obtain. It was approved in committee on Wednesday and is on the Special Order calendar in the House next Tuesday.

According to the legislation, there are nearly one million unique job credentials in the United States, at least 5,000 available from Alabama-based providers, and “too many Alabamians do not know which credentials lead to desired outcomes, and employers are unable to understand what skills workers bring to a job.”

The registry will identify “credentials of value” that would lead to a high-quality job. Credentials can include certificates, industry, recognized and registered apprenticeship certificates of completions, and occupational licenses. A panel will annually review the credentials on the registry. 

Rep. Collins said a “pathways” portion of her bill would give students access to better information about jobs of value in their area, the pathways needed to get there, and how to be successful. This section requires analyzing student data over time, including academic performance, employment and wage information.  

The bill also requires by the 2023-2024 academic year that students earn one or more college or career readiness indicators before they graduate. There are nearly a dozen possible indicators, including earning a benchmark score in any subject area on the ACT college entrance exam, earning a qualifying score of three or higher on an advanced placement exam, earning college credit while in high school, earning a qualifying career technical industry credential, or being accepted into the military before graduation.

Upcoming legislative schedule

The House of Representatives and Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, February 15, at 1:00 and 2:00 p.m., respectively.