04 Mar Legislative Report – March 4, 2022
Volume 23 Number 8 – March 4, 2022
Senate approves bill to allow handguns without permit
On Thursday, Republicans voted to invoke cloture and end debate after approximately one hour on HB 272, which would allow people to carry concealed handguns in public without first getting a permit. They then voted 23 – 6 to approve the bill.
Alabama currently requires people to get a concealed carry permit, which requires a background check, to carry a handgun under their clothes or in a purse or bag when they go in public. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Shane Stringer (R – Citronelle), would do away with the requirement, although people could still choose to get a permit if they wanted.
It would also do away with the current requirement for people without concealed carry permits to keep handguns unloaded and secured when driving.
Senators made a number of changes to the bill in an effort to alleviate some of law enforcement’s concerns. One change would allow an officer, who had a reasonable suspicion that a person was about to engage in criminal conduct, to temporarily take the weapon and run it through databases to see if the gun was stolen and to also check the person’s criminal history. Another change would steer up to $5 million in state funds to sheriffs’ offices to compensate for the funding loss from permit fees.
The bill must now go back to the House for final approval.
Gaming proposal introduced in Senate
One of the most contested pieces of legislation taken up by the Alabama Legislature on a periodic basis is the issue of gambling. If this regular legislative session resembles those of the past, lawmakers could be in for a robust debate.
One lawmaker who has actively involved himself at the center of past discussions, State Sen. Greg Albritton (R – Atmore), on Thursday unveiled his comprehensive gambling proposal which he hopes will receive approval from the legislature to be placed on the ballot as a constitutional amendment for a vote of the citizenry.
Presently, Alabama is one of only six states that do not have a lottery.
If approved, Albritton’s proposal would establish the Alabama Education Lottery under the supervision and regulation of the Alabama Education Lottery and Gambling Commission.
The commission would have the authority to grant licenses for the operation of casino-style games, sports betting, bingo and raffles.
According to a summary of Albritton’s bill, the proposal requires a compact to be negotiated between the governor and Poarch Band of Creek Indians to address casino-style games and sports betting on the tribe’s trust land.
The number of licensed casinos that could operate in the state would be limited to five.
Four sites would be home to a single licensed casino awarded through a competitive process. The sites would be located at Greenetrack in Greene County, Birmingham Race Course in Jefferson County, VictoryLand in Macon County, and Mobile Greyhound Racing facility in Mobile County.
DeKalb County or Jackson County would be home to the state’s fifth casino site, which would be made possible by a compact negotiated between the governor and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.
Additionally, two satellite casinos would be authorized to operate a limited number of electronic gaming machines in both Houston and Lowndes Counties.
A 20% tax would be imposed on net gambling revenues for casinos and sports betting.
More than 99% of all revenue generated from the lottery would be reserved for the Alabama Education Lottery Trust Fund. The revenue would be allocated toward the creation of scholarships to support workforce needs.
Local governing bodies and the state general fund would be the recipients of proceeds in the Alabama Gambling Trust Fund.
The following would receive earmarked funding from the tax on net gaming revenues:
- Long-term mental health care facilities and providers
- Broadband expansion
- Rural healthcare services and telemedicine
- Road and bridge infrastructure grant program
- Prison maintenance and improvement
- Development and improvement of state parks and historical sites
The bills are scheduled for a public hearing in Senate Tourism Committee on Wednesday of next week.
House approves broadband expansion bills
On Thursday, the House of Representatives unanimously approved two bills designed to expand broadband infrastructure and accessibility.
SB 123 by Sen. Clay Scofield (R – Guntersville) makes changes to the Connect Alabama Act of 2021.
SB123 quantifies the minimum Internet service threshold to 100 megabits per second downstream and 20 megabits per second upstream. It also allows for non-disclosure agreements between the Alabama Digital Expansion Division and broadband providers as well as annual revisions of the Connect Alabama Fund.
SB 124, also sponsored by Sen. Scofield, would allow governmental entities to participate in the grant 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.
The bill would also require any federal or other funds expended by ADECA’s grant program to be distributed according to the statewide connectivity plan. It also increases the amount of grant funding allowed per project from 35%, up to $1.5 million, to 80% up to $5 million.
SB 123 has been sent to the Governor for her signature, and SB 124 must go back to the Senate for final approval of changes made in the House.
Upcoming legislative schedule
The House of Representatives and Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, March 8, at 2:00 and 2:30 p.m., respectively.