Volume 24 Number 3 – March 24, 2023

The Alabama Legislature reconvened its regular session this Tuesday, March 21st, with a full agenda of bills to address following the five-day Special Session, which ended on March 16. Many were awaiting the Governor’s Education Trust Fund and General Fund budget proposals, which were released on Tuesday. 

Governor Kay Ivey sent lawmakers her budget proposals for an $8.8 billion education budget and a $2.9 billion General Fund budget for 2024. Keeping with her priorities in her State of the State Address on March 7, the proposal includes increased funding toward education, repayment of debt obligations ahead of schedule, a 2% pay increase for all state employees, and a confirmed push for $400 tax rebates to qualified individuals. The Governor’s official statement on her suggested spending plans can be found here with an in-depth breakdown of each budget proposal. Ivey also sent over extensive supplemental budget proposals totaling $2,787,667,309 for the ETF and $188,573,865 for the General Fund. Many expect the legislature to make significant changes to both her regular budget and supplemental proposals.  

On Thursday, the widely anticipated Dram Shop legislation, which was endorsed by many CSG clients including GUMBO, International Wines & Craft Beer, and Monday Night Brewing, passed the Senate unanimously. 

Currently, there are just three insurance carriers that provide policies to retail establishments and require $100,000 in coverage that, as of now, can cost businesses more than $35,000 annually. With the passage of this legislation, the cost of liquor liability insurance for restaurant and bar owners should decrease and allow the businesses the opportunity to purchase higher amounts of insurance protection at a lower cost.

This legislation will create a wider standard with a server having to knowingly serve an intoxicated person, and for that service to be the proximate cause of the injury or death if incurred.  The bill is expected to be on the House Insurance Committee agenda upon the legislature’s return from Spring Break.

Other notable bills on the docket  this week included SB 113, which was sponsored by Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman. This bill would require health care facilities to establish policies that meet certain visitation requirements, including allowing in-person visits in multiple situations. The bill was widely supported and named after Anne Roberts, Sen. Dan Roberts’ (R – Mountain Brook) late wife who passed away in early 2022, and Harold Sachs, who was a good friend of Sen. Gudger and passed away in 2020. The bill has been extensively negotiated between the sponsor, the hospitals, nursing homes, and trial lawyers. The Senate passed the bill on Thursday and Rep. Debbie Wood, R-Valley, will carry the bill in the House. 

Also on Thursday, in the House, Rep. Matt Simpson, R-Daphne,  championed a fentanyl tracking bill that would see significant increases to mandatory minimum sentences for fentanyl possession. The bill passed unanimously and Sen. April Weaver, R-Brierfield, will carry it in the Senate.The House also took up HB 2 by Rep. Ginny Shaver, R – Leesburg, which would streamline the adoption process in Alabama. The bill sets definite time parameters to move the process along faster, reduces court procedures by allowing for electronic communications, and saves prospective parents time and money by updating the state’s adoption law language to be more clear. The bill passed unanimously.

Sen.Weaverhas been working diligently on her own bill that would lessen the amount of correctional incentive time, better known as “good time,” that incarcerated individuals would be able to receive while in state custody. Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, who expressed concerns of the bill in committee, offered up an amendment that specified instances where an incarcerated individual may not have their good-time revoked. Singleton’s amendment was successful and the bill ultimately passed 30-1 with Singleton as the only nay vote. The bill was referred to the corresponding House committee and will be carried by Rep. Russell Bedsole, R-Alabaster. 

The widely anticipated economic incentives renewal legislation is projected to be introduced on April 4th, starting in the House chambers. These incentives are a top priority for the business and economic development communities and leadership from both the Legislative and Executive branch. Christie Strategy Group has been working on behalf of GUMBO to ensure that incentives for large tourism destination projects are included in the renewal legislation.

The Alabama Legislature will be away for Spring Break next week and reconvenes its regular session on Tuesday, April 4th, 2023.