MAR 1 LEGISLATIVE REPORT – MARCH 1, 2024

Volume 25 Number 5 – 10th, 11th, and 12th legislative days

The Alabama legislature reconvened the 2024 regular legislative session on Tuesday, February 27, 2024. 

IVF Immunity Bill

In response to a recent ruling from the Alabama Supreme Court, lawmakers have been working on a solution to allow fertility clinics to reopen and resume in vitro fertilization (IVF) services. The unprecedented court decision, which gave fertilized eggs the same protection as babies under the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act, threw IVF treatment in Alabama into turmoil.

On Wednesday, hundreds of advocates from across the state arrived at the State House to urge legislators to support legislation that would protect service providers and patients from civil or criminal liability. After hours of advocacy, both the Senate and House bills were in committee and received favorable reports. On Thursday, HB237 by Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) was debated on the floor for multiple hours and ultimately passed. The Senate version, SB159 by Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence), also passed the Senate later in the afternoon. 

Bill sponsors and IVF advocates expect the bills to receive final passage by Wednesday of next week and be signed into law immediately, ensuring IVF clinics can resume treatment as soon as possible.

CHOOSE Act & Education Savings Account

After more than four hours of debate on Tuesday, the CHOOSE Act passed the House with a 69-34 vote. Six Republicans joined the Democrats in voting no. 

The bill would provide eligible families $7,000 in state tax dollars per student to pay for the cost of educating their child in a participating school or for other eligible expenses. Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) would become available at the start of the 2025-26 school year. Families who homeschool their children could receive $2,000 per child, up to $4,000 each year, for eligible expenses.

Democratic members were largely opposed to the measure and argued that the bill lacked appropriate accountability measures for private schools receiving public dollars and that its costs came at the expense of public schools. The bill now heads to the Senate and was referred to the Senate Finance and Taxation Education committee. 

Comprehensive Gaming & Lottery Legislation

The Senate Tourism and Economic Development committee held an unannounced public hearing on Wednesday on the comprehensive gaming bills, HB151 and HB152. As anticipated, substitute bills were being prepared Wednesday, but weren’t discussed publicly. Wednesday’s meeting started more than 20 minutes late and several members expressed frustration over the structure of the meeting and felt left out of the loop on plans for the bills. Senate bill sponsor, Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Range), arrived late to the committee and told members he would carry over the bills. The committee is expected to meet next Tuesday to address a substitute bill, which has not yet been circulated to the public. 

Ethics Reform Bill

During a public hearing Wednesday in the House Ethics Committee chaired by Rep. Matt Simpson (R-Daphne), many individuals spoke both in support and opposition of a bill to reform the state’s ethics laws. HB227 would establish new five-year terms for the Alabama Ethics Commission Director, require a reappointment process subject to Senate confirmation, and transfer all criminal violations to the criminal code. Additionally, it would empower the commission to issue private warnings, public reprimands, civil penalties, and restitution for violations of the ethics code or Fair Campaign Practices Act. 

The bill was ultimately carried over and another committee meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, March 5th, where a vote is anticipated. 

Seafood Labeling Bill

After working further with restaurant, hospitality, and retail industry leaders, Rep. Chip Brown (R-Hollinger’s Island) brought HB66 to the floor on Thursday. The bill requires restaurants and grocery/convenience stores to indicate whether their seafood is imported. 

Rep. Matt Simpson (R-Daphne) offered a floor amendment that included several changes to lessen the burden on restaurants and grocery/convenience stores. Some of those changes included ensuring signage dimension requirements are standardized to facilitate printing capabilities and exempting a group of 10 or more people that preorder their food items. Rep. Brown accepted the amendment as “friendly,” and the bill ultimately passed as amended with a 101-0 vote. The bill now heads to the Senate where Sen. David Sessions (R-Grand Bay) will serve as the bill sponsor. 

Last Actions & Bill Updates

  • SB59 – Public k-12 education; hands on instruction in CPR and the use of AEDs, required in health classes; State Board of Education, authorized to adopt rules
    • Feb 28, 2024 | House – Pending Committee Action In Second House (Education Policy)
  • SB53 – Child labor, eliminating the eligibility to work form.
    • Feb 28, 2024 | House – Pending Committee Action In Second House (Commerce and Small Business)
  • SB62 – Taxation, sales tax exemptions, sales and use tax exemption provided for certain purchases of diapers, baby supplies, baby formula, maternity clothing, and menstrual hygiene products
    • Feb 29, 2024 | House – Pending Committee Action in Second House

Notable Bills Introduced This Week

SB185 – Service contract providers, disclosures required in contracts and related marketing, limitation of liability, right to pay out cash value in lieu of repair or replacement, size and placement of disclosures. (Judiciary)

SB186 – Prohibit the use of any ranked-choice voting method in elections except for electors who vote by absentee ballot pursuant to the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (County and Municipal Government)

SB176 – Public K-12 education and two-year institutions of higher education, Alabama Career RoadMap Act, Alabama Community College System required to develop career readiness module to be added to high school graduation requirements, each public high school student required to complete Career RoadMap Postsecondary Opportunity as defined by Alabama Community College System, Alabama Community College System and State Board of Education required to adopt rules (Education Policy)

HB237 / SB159 – In vitro fertilization; civil and criminal immunity provided for in vitro fertilization goods and services in certain circumstances (Healthcare)

SB167 – Alabama Jobs Act; requirements for approved companies revised (Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development)

HB238 – Pharmacy Benefits Managers; Providing more regulation (Insurance)

HB236 – Taxation, sales tax exemptions, sales and use tax exemption provided for certain purchases of diapers, baby supplies, baby formula, maternity clothing, and menstrual hygiene products (Ways and Means Education)

The House and Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, March 5, 2024 for the 13th legislative day.