LEGISLATIVE REPORT – MARCH 22, 2024

Volume 25 Number 7 – 16th and 17th legislative days

The Alabama legislature reconvened the 2024 regular legislative session on Tuesday, March 19, 2024, after legislators were back in their districts for their “District Work Week.”

“Working for Alabama” Bipartisan Legislative Package

On Thursday, Governor Kay Ivey, Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed (R-Jasper), House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville), Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) and House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) unveiled “Working for Alabama.” The ambitious package of reforms is designed to strengthen Alabama’s workforce, economic and community development efforts. The bipartisan, seven-bill package aims to streamline and make more efficient and effective the state’s efforts and strategies in these respective areas.

ALABAMA WORKFORCE TRANSFORMATION ACT

SB247 by Sen. Steve Livingston (R-Scottsboro) will merge and consolidate duplicative workforce development agencies, programs, and funding mechanisms into a single, repurposed state agency that will be led by a cabinet-level official who has primary responsibility for the state’s workforce development activities. The Alabama Workforce Board will be led by an executive committee comprised of Alabama business executives that will develop a statewide workforce development plan, review budget requests for workforce development activities, and work with the Secretary of Workforce to make consolidated workforce development funding recommendations based on the needs of the business community and Alabama workers. This should increase state budget accountability and help eliminate barriers to employment by prioritizing recruiting, training, and employing workers. Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville) will carry the House version of the bill.

WORKFORCE PATHWAYS ACT

SB253 by Sen. Donnie Chesteen (R-Geneva) will establish a Workforce Pathways diploma at the K-12 level and reinvest in Career & Technical Education (CTE) centers across the state. The State Department of Education will prepare the curriculum for this new degree pathway that will allow CTE programs to satisfy existing Math and Science requirements for non-college bound students in grades 10-12. This pathway will better prepare those students to enter the workforce and/or earn credentials that will help lead directly to employment in their chosen field. This bill would also encourage the expansion of the Alabama Short-Term Credential Program that provides grants of up to $4,500 to facilitate an individual’s participation in a for-credit or non-credit short-term credential program at a community college that provides training for in-demand careers in the region where the course is taught. Rep. Kelvin Lawrence (D-Montgomery) will carry the bill in the House. 

CHILDCARE TAX CREDIT

HB358 by Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) will create tax credits to incentivize employers to fund childcare options. It also incentivizes childcare providers, both for-profit and nonprofit, to expand access and quality. The tax credits will be available for employers that provide on-site childcare or stipends to employees for childcare expenses. Tax credits will also be available to for-profit childcare providers that voluntarily participate in the state’s childcare quality rating program, and donors to nonprofit childcare providers for the improvement or operation of the facilities. Sen. Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman) will serve as the Senate sponsor of the bill. 

WORKFORCE HOUSING TAX CREDIT

HB346 by Rep. Cynthia Almond (R-Tuscaloosa) complements the existing federal housing tax credit program created by the Reagan Administration designed to incentivize private capital investment in the development of affordable workforce housing. Under the program, developers receive tax credits in exchange for committing to cap rental rates. This program leverages private, state, and federal dollars to address Alabama’s workforce housing crisis. Specifically, state tax credits would generate around 25% of the necessary development capital while private and federal capital would fund the remaining 75%. The state credit could not be utilized by taxpayers until after a project is placed in service. Accordingly, 100% of the capital needed for the development of a project must be spent and the development must be operational before the state spends a single penny on the tax credits. Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Daphne) will carry the bill in the Senate. 

ALABAMA GROWTH ALLIANCE

SB252 by Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed (R-Jasper) will establish a public-private partnership focused on the state’s long-term economic development efforts. By leveraging the strengths of both the public and private sectors, the state can foster a more collaborative and efficient approach to economic development, leading to more innovative and effective solutions. The bill will also require the public-private partnership to routinely review the state’s key economic development incentives to ensure these limited resources are being effectively deployed according to the state’s growth strategies. The House version of the bill, HB372, is sponsored by Rep. Randall Shedd (R-Baileyton).

INNOVATION DISTRICT ACT

SB243 by Sen. Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) and Sen. Dan Roberts (R-Mountain Brook) will authorize local governments to create a new type of local entity to undertake and incentivize economic development projects in certain business sectors identified by the Alabama Department of Commerce. The district would be functionally similar to a cooperative district or industrial development board and have bonding authority to raise funds for projects in the district. Rep. James Lomax (R-Huntsville) and Rep. Neil Rafferty (D-Birmingham) will serve as the bill sponsors in the House.  

PBM Bill & Taskforce

After significant opposition from the business community, a compromise was reached on the bill designed to regulate Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs). After negotiations, Rep. Phillip Rigsby (R-Huntsville), the sponsor, agreed to drop HB238 and pursue a taskforce to research the issues and causes of steeply-priced prescriptions and the best approach to provide local pharmacists relief while not placing additional cost burdens on employers and employees. 

ALFA Farm Bureau Health Plan

On Tuesday, Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) filed a bill that would allow the Alabama Farmers Federation (ALFA) to offer its own health plans to its members without any oversight or regulatory requirements. Opponents of the bill stated during an hour-long public hearing on Wednesday that if passed, the Farm Bureau Health Plan would not be regulated by the Alabama Department of Insurance, or any other regulatory entity, skirting both state and federal rules that all other health insurance plans are required to abide by. The Senate Banking & Insurance committee did not vote on SB232 and could take the bill up when they return from spring break in early April.

Divisive Concepts and Absentee Ballot Harvesting Bills Signed by Governor Ivey

On Tuesday, two highly controversial bills that were deemed as priorities for the Republican Caucuses received final passage and were signed by the Governor. 

SB1 by Sen. Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman) makes it a misdemeanor to distribute a pre-filled absentee ballot application to a voter or return another voter’s completed application. It would become a felony to give or receive a payment or gift “for distributing, ordering, requesting, collecting, completing, prefilling, obtaining, or delivering a voter’s absentee ballot application.” 

SB129 by Sen. Will Barfoot (R-Pike Road) aims to restrict the establishment and operation of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) offices and programs within certain public entities in Alabama. It prohibits state agencies, local boards of education, and public institutions of higher education from sponsoring DEI programs or maintaining offices that promote such programs. Additionally, the bill prohibits the use of public funds for activities that compel assent to divisive concepts, with certain exceptions.

Last Actions & Bill Updates

HB66 – Seafood products, country of origin notification, correct name, differentiate between farm-raised and wild fish; required for food service establishments

    • Mar 21, 2024 | Senate – Second Reading Second House

SB48 – Public K-12 Education, posting of curricula on school websites required, parents or guardians authorized to examine materials upon request

    • Mar 21, 2024 | Senate – Enacted

HB126 – Fire-protection personnel and emergency medical services personnel, annual training related to individuals with sensory needs and certain disabilities, required

    • Mar 21, 2024 | Senate – Second Reading Second House

HB129 – Creating Hope and Opportunity for Our Students’ Education (CHOOSE) Act of 2024, established to provide education savings accounts (ESAs) for parents of children to use in providing education services for those children.

    • Mar 21, 2024 | House – Engrossed

HB164 – Consumer Protection; online distribution of material harmful to minors, prohibited; online age-verification requirements, required

    • Mar 21, 2024 | Senate – Second Reading Second House

SB150 – Taxation; creates Tourism Tax Protection Act

    • Mar 21, 2024 | Senate – Read Second Time In House of Origin

 

Notable Bills Introduced This Week

  • SB243 – Economic development; state law authorizing counties and municipalities to provide for innovation districts as public corporations authorized; innovation district use of public funds for public or private persons authorized (Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development)
  • SB259 – Mixed Spirit Beverages; providing for definition, licensure, and distribution (Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development)
  • HB366 – Consumer protection, further provides for data breaches (Judiciary)
  • HB354 – Community development districts; proceeds from alcoholic beverage tax in certain districts, distribution provide for (Urban and Rural Development)
  • SB224 – Office of Occupational and Professional Licensing, created within the Department of Labor; oversight provided to professional or occupational licensing boards. (County and Municipal Government)
  • SB223 – Rural Hospital Investment Program established, tax credits for donations to rural hospitals authorized (Finance and Taxation Education)
  • SB231 – Labor organizations, employer’s eligibility for economic development incentives conditioned upon employer refraining from certain practices relating to labor organizations, oversight provided (Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development)
  • SB238 – Home Buyers Initiative Act; alternative housing programs, funding mechanism further provided (Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development)
  • HB326 – Entertainment Industry Incentive Act of 2009 amended, music albums included as qualified production, minimum qualifications established (Ways and Means Education)

 

The Legislature has next week off for Spring Break, so the House and Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, April 2, 2024, for the 18th legislative day.