LEGISLATIVE REPORT – FEBRUARY 16, 2024

Volume 25 Number 3 – 4th, 5th, and 6th legislative days

The Alabama legislature reconvened the 2024 regular legislative session on Tuesday, February 13, 2024. 

Comprehensive Gaming & Lottery Legislation

Both gaming bills, HB151 and HB152, moved through the legislative process quickly in the Alabama House of Representatives this week. The Economic Development and Tourism Committee held a public hearing for both bills on Tuesday, and members ultimately gave both a favorable report on Wednesday. On Thursday, the House approved the proposed constitutional amendment, HB151, after approximately two hours of debate on the floor with a 70-32 vote, exceeding the needed three-fifths majority, or 63 votes, needed in the House for a proposed change to the Alabama Constitution. Immediately following the passage of HB151, members also voted to approve the enabling legislation, HB152, with a 67-31 vote. 

Both bills now head to the Alabama Senate where three-fifths or 21 votes will also be required in the Senate. Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Range), who is carrying the bill in the Senate, said he was not certain when they would take up the legislation but said the Republican caucus will probably discuss it on Tuesday and decide how to proceed. If the bill receives final passage in the Senate, Alabama voters will vote on the constitutional amendment in November. 

School Choice & Education Savings Accounts

A substitute is expected next week for the GOP-priority school choice bill, SB61, that if passed will allow families to spend up to $7,000 per child per year in public funds at private schools. Sponsor Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) said a revised version of the bill, expected next week in the Senate education budget committee, will cap the total amount in that fund. Other expected changes will allow for a lesser contribution to the fund from the state if the previous year’s funding was not all expended. The committee did not vote on the bill this week and is awaiting the substitute. 

Bill to Mandate Additional Labeling for Origin of Seafood

HB66, sponsored by Rep. Chip Brown (R-Hollinger Island), would place additional requirements on all food service establishments to notify consumers of the country of origin of seafood products they offer for sale or advertise. The bill was on the agenda for the House Ports Waterways, and Intermodal Transit committee meeting on Wednesday, which is chaired by Rep. Brown. Many advocates of the restaurant, hospitality, and retail industry met with Rep. Brown on Tuesday expressed their support for the seafood industry in Alabama, but emphasized their major concerns regarding the undue burden placed on small businesses and the significant, negative consequences the bill could produce. Rep. Brown ultimately pulled the bill from the Committee’s agenda for the meeting last Wednesday to work on drafting amendments to the bill to help address those concerns and improve the bill so it is more realistic for the restaurant industry.

The Senate companion, SB90 sponsored by Sen. David Sessions (R-Grand Bay), is scheduled in committee next Tuesday, and Rep. Brown’s bill is expected to be back on the committee agenda on Wednesday.

Ballot Harvesting

After more than three hours of debate, a controversial ballot harvesting bill was passed in the Senate on Tuesday. Sponsored by Sen. Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman), SB1 would make it a Class B felony for an Alabamian to pay another person for assistance with an absentee ballot, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Several amendments to the bill were approved by the Senate and the bill passed along party lines, 27-8. The bill now heads to the House where it has been referred to the Constitution, Campaigns and Elections committee. 

Notable Bills of the Week (Updates/Last-Actions)

SB53 – Child labor, to eliminate the eligibility to work form.

  • Feb. 15 – Reported Favorably Out of the Senate Children & Youth Health Committee

 

SB62 – Taxation, sales tax exemptions, sales and use tax exemption provided for certain purchases of diapers, baby supplies, baby formula, maternity clothing, and menstrual hygiene products

  • Feb 14 – Reported Favorably Out of the Senate Finance & Taxation Education Committee

 

HB167 – Consumer protection; filter requirements on Internet enabled devices, penalties for violation

  • Feb 15 – Re-referred to the House Commerce & Small Business Committee

 

The House and Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, February 20th for the 7th legislative day.