Legislative Report March 6, 2020

Volume 21 Number 5 – March 6, 2020

9th & 10th legislative days

Super Tuesday in Alabama

On Tuesday, over 1.1 million Alabamians, 33.25% of registered voters, went to the polls to vote in the Super Tuesday primary. There were several notable elections in the state, including the race for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions when he was named U.S. Attorney General by President Trump.

The top three candidates for Senate going into Tuesday were Congressman Bradley Byrne, former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville, and former U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions, vying to reclaim his seat after resigning as Attorney General. Byrne fell short, receiving 24.89% of the vote. The race is headed for a runoff between Tuberville and Sessions with Tuberville receiving 33.39% and Sessions receiving 31.65%.

Other notable elections included the AL-1 and AL-2 open seats. The AL-1 seat is currently held by Congressman Bradley Byrne, who ran and lost in the U.S. Senate race, and AL-2 is held by Congressman Martha Roby who decided not to run for re-election.

Dothan businessman Jeff Coleman led a field of seven in the AL-2 race and is headed to a runoff with former state representative Barry Moore. The winner will face Phyllis Harvey-Hall in the general election. The district extends from the Montgomery area across southeast Alabama.

AL-1 will also go to a runoff between Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl and former state senator Bill Hightower. Veteran and nonprofit CEO James Averhart and biology professor Kiani A. Gardner will vie for the Democratic nod. Alabama’s 1st congressional district includes the counties of Washington, Mobile, Baldwin, Escambia and Monroe counties and part of Clarke County.

State Senator Cam Ward (R – Alabaster) challenged incumbent Greg Shaw for Place 1 on the Alabama Supreme Court, but fell short, receiving 41.6% to Shaw’s 58.4%. Ward will remain in the state senate.

Also of note on election day was the overwhelming defeat of Amendment One. If approved, the amendment would have allowed for an appointed state school board. Alabama is one of 11 states and the District of Columbia that elect state school boards. Nearly 75% of voters voted against the amendment.

For a full breakdown of primary election results, visit the Alabama Secretary of State’s website.

Senate approves small cell legislation 

The Senate voted 30 – 0 on Thursday to approve a bill that would set a statewide standard for deploying 5G cellular infrastructure, known as small cells. Three amendments were added to the bill to appease the League of Municipalities, electric utilities, and cable industry.

5G, which stands for “fifth generation,” is the latest in wireless technology that allows high-speed internet access over cellular networks to ensure quality of service in high-capacity areas. Those networks require “small cell” receivers and antennas to take the signal transmitted from cell phone towers and disperse it locally. Providers want to place those cells, described as the size of two stacked rolls of paper towels, on utility and light poles and other public-owned property.

The bill now goes to the House where its fate is uncertain.

Governor’s gambling task force meets; lottery legislation introduced

In February, Governor Ivey issued an executive order appointing 12 members to the Study Group on Gambling Policy, an initiative she had announced during her State of the State address. The group met for the first time on Thursday.

Former Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange chairs the group. During their meeting, they heard from the Governor’s General Counsel, Will Parker, on the current state of gambling in Alabama.

The Legislature has not approved a lottery bill since 1999, when voters rejected the plan proposed by Governor Don Siegelman.

Ivey has generally taken a hands-off approach to gambling issues. She has said she does not believe gambling is good way to fund government services. But she has also said she’s not opposed to a ballot referendum on the issues. She said she wants clarity on the facts before that happens.

Mayor Strange said he expects the study group to meet again no later than the first week of April when they will hear from opponents and proponents of gambling. The group will compile a report to be presented to the Governor and legislature by the end of the year.

Despite the Governor’s desire to study the issue before moving forward, Sen. Greg Albritton (R – Atmore) introduced an education lottery bill on Thursday. The constitutional amendment would establish the Alabama Education Lottery and create the Alabama Gaming Commission. It would also provide that casino-style games may be operated only pursuant to a compact between the state and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians for an initial period of 25 years, at two additional sites, one in Jefferson County and one in Marshall, Jackson, or DeKalb County operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.

The proposed amendment would require an initial license fee of $250 million and a capital investment of at least $250 million for the additional sites. Upon expiration of the original license for the additional sites, two other sites would be authorized to conduct casino-style games pursuant to competitive bids with a minimum bid of $100 million for the license and a minimum bid of $250 million in capital improvements.

The amendment would also impose a tax of 25% on the net gaming revenues of the gaming operations in the state except on Poarch Band of Creek Indians’ land.

Finally, the proposed amendment would require the Governor to negotiate in good faith a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians to authorize casino-style games on lands held in trust for the Poarch Band of Creek Indians and require the Legislature to meet in a special session within 30 days of the ratification of the amendment to enact implementing legislation.

The bill has been referred to the Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee.

Upcoming legislative schedule

The House of Representatives and Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at 1:00 and 2:00 p.m., respectively.