Legislative Report – February 4, 2022

Volume 23 Number 4 – February 4, 2022

Gun bill advances in committee

On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6 – 4 to advance legislation to end the requirement to get a permit to carry a concealed handgun in public. The legislation is sponsored by Sen. Gerald Allen (R – Tuscaloosa). Rep. Shane Stringer (R – Citronelle) has filed similar legislation in the House of Representatives.

The proposal drew opposition from law enforcement officers during the public hearing on Wednesday.

Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones told the committee that the bill would take away a valuable tool for law enforcement officers to remove stolen weapons from the streets and to solve and prevent crimes.

Edward Delmore, the chief of police for the Gulf Shores Police Department, said officers can now ask a person if they have a permit when they encounter a gun.

Representatives from gun rights groups, including the National Rifle Association, urged lawmakers to advance the bill, arguing that 21 states allow concealed carry without a permit.

They argued Alabama already allows open carry — meaning that a person can legally carry a non-concealed handgun — and that it doesn’t make sense to require a permit if the person puts on a jacket or gets in a car.

The bill has been introduced for several years without success, but House Republicans have named the bill a priority for the year.

Committee approves school choice bill

A bill to allow state funding of students in a variety of educational settings, including private schools and homeschools, was approved in the Senate Education Policy Committee on Wednesday.

Supporters say the state should be funding students, not public education “bureaucracy.” Opponents say the bill will hurt public schools by taking away their funding.

A fiscal note on the bill, prepared by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency, said that when fully implemented in the 2024-2025 school year, the bill could send as much as $537 million from the Education Trust Fund to education savings accounts that parents could use to send their children to alternate schools. At least initially, the per student state allocation would be about $5,561, per the fiscal note. It would change as state funding changes.

During a public hearing, several education groups spoke against the bill, specifically on its impact on public school funding.

Supporters of the bill cite Alabama’s poor performance on several national rankings, including the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and say it’s time for parents to have more options for their children’s educations.

Sen. Del Marsh (R – Anniston), sponsor of the bill, has called the legislation “the mother of all school choice bills.” He amended it to require the same annual assessments for non-public schools students that public schools students take.

Rep. Charlotte Meadows (R – Montgomery) has filed the companion bill in the House.

Bill to allow increased truck weights, tax credits for logging organizations approved in committee

The Rural Logging Support Act, sponsored by Sen. Will Barfoot (R – Pike Road) would authorize taxpayers to receive a tax credit for contributions to logging 10 support organizations. It would also provide for logging support organizations to make grants for maintenance and construction of rural bridges and for installation of onboard scales and other technologies that promote transportation efficiencies. In addition, it would provide for exceptions to weight restrictions for qualifying vehicles used in forest commerce.

The bill, which is proposed and supported by the Alabama Forestry Association, would allow a weight exemption for logging trucks. Currently, 5-axle truck can weigh up to 88,000 pounds. This bill raises the weight to 84,400 pounds and explicitly includes the 10% enforcement tolerance, raising the functional 5-axle truck weight to 92,840 pounds.

A 6-axle truck can weigh up to 92,400 pounds. This bill raises the weight to 90,400 pounds and explicitly includes the 10% enforcement tolerance, raising the functional 6-axle truck weight to 99,440 pounds.

The County Commission Association and ALDOT spoke in opposition of the bill. The Railway Association, Road Builders Association, and others have concerns over the bill. The impact to the Education Trust Fund is also concerning to many in the education field.

The bill seems to be on a fast track in the Senate and could be on the floor as early as next week.

Upcoming legislative schedule

The House of Representatives and Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, February 8, at 1:00 and 2:30 p.m., respectively.