PRE-SESSION BRIEFING – JANUARY 29, 2024

VOLUME 25 NUMBER 1 – JANUARY 29, 2024

The Alabama Legislature will convene for the 1st day of the 2024 regular legislative session on Tuesday, February 6th, 2024. This session is likely to be busy with many large priority issues for the Governor, Lt. Governor, and legislative leadership. 

Workforce Development

Workforce development has been a dominating topic amongst Alabama elected officials for many years. When data regarding Alabama’s labor participation rate was released, the path to growing the state’s workforce and labor participation became a top priority. A few ideas that have been discussed include incentives for recruiting recent retirees and young mothers back to the workforce, addressing childcare issues,, and decreasing the healthcare coverage gap.

Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth

“Alabama is the economic recruitment leader of the Southeast, but to maintain our competitive edge we need historic, transformative changes to our workforce development system.” (Yellowhammer News)

You can read the full Alabama Workforce Development Plan from the Lieutenant Governor’s Commission on 21st Century Workforce HERE

Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter

 “It’s not because people don’t want to go to work, a lot of times they don’t have a way. A lot of times it’s child care.” (Alabama Reflector)

“The speaker also said that the state can do more to improve its health care infrastructure, saying that health care across the state ‘is not good.’ The cost of healthcare has increased ‘tremendously,’ he said, and that a ‘private-public partnership makes a lot of sense.’ 

‘We’ve got to have the conversation. We can’t not have it,’ he said. ‘I think we’ll continue to work on private-public partnerships, certainly something that we need to look at. I think it can give people that’s in the gap better insurance than Medicaid.’” (Alabama Reflector)

Representative Danny Garrett (R-Trussville), Chairman Ways & Means – Education Committee

“We need to shift and broaden our focus from simply training a workforce, to recruiting, training and employing skilled workers. Our workforce development system must innovate if we want to provide opportunities for more workers and give all Alabamians a pathway to good jobs.” (Alabama Daily News)

Lillian Brand, Vice President, Women’s Foundation of Alabama

“Child care is an essential resource for Alabama’s workforce. As Alabama succeeds in industry recruitment and job creation, the lack of affordable, accessible and quality child care will continue to be a glaring and substantial barrier to work, impacting the economic progress across our entire state.” (Alabama Daily News)

State & Supplemental Budgets

Alabama lawmakers and budget leaders are in a unique fiscal situation walking into the 2024 legislative session. Excess revenues from 2023 in both the General Fund and Education Trust Fund will warrant supplemental spending bills — likely around $400 million in the General Fund and $600 million in the ETF — in 2024.

State Finance Director Bill Poole

“Due to economic growth attributable to the hard work of Alabama’s citizens and the continuation of conservative budget management by Gov. Ivey and the Legislature, the State of Alabama concluded FY23 with revenues that exceeded state appropriations. Accordingly, supplemental appropriations will be possible in both the General Fund and Education Trust Fund budgets and the Governor’s Office is working with legislative leadership to evaluate needs and priorities across all budget areas.” (Alabama Daily News)

Representative Rex Reynolds (R-Huntsville), Chairman of the House General Fund committee

“It’s times like these we have to be cautious and not spend today when we know tomorrow our revenues will be reduced and our receipts will be down. The General Fund will see a drastic decrease as interest rates start to fall back down.” (Alabama Daily News)

Gaming & Lottery

Legalizing gambling in Alabama has been a widely discussed topic for multiple years. In past legislative sessions, the Alabama State Senate has successfully passed different versions of a gaming bill out of their chamber while the hurdle has historically been in the House of Representatives. This year, lawmakers plan to introduce a comprehensive gaming bill that will include Class III casino gaming, a state lottery, sportsbook gaming, and the creation of an Alabama Gaming Commission. The bill will originate in the House, and it is still unclear whether it will make it through the entire legislative process. 

Governor Kay Ivey

“The last time the Legislature proposed a constitutional amendment on gambling to Alabama voters was in 1999, and frankly, I support Alabamians having another opportunity to vote on the issue. I think it has to be comprehensive enough to clearly address all forms of gambling. And most importantly, it must be done right – I will only support legislation if I think it is best for our state and our citizens.” (AL.com)

Representative Andy Whitt (R-Harvest)

“Comprehensive is the best pathway forward because it addresses all of the problems and puts this issue behind us.We don’t want to have to keep coming back and doing things one at a time. The Speaker wanted this bill to be comprehensive. The governor’s office has been clear that she wants a comprehensive bill. That’s what we’re doing.’” (Alabama Political Reporter)

Representative Rex Reynolds (R-Huntsville)

“We are gonna address gambling and we are gonna address it early in the House. We’ve certainly had some caucus meetings already and we’re having some tough conversations about that. We don’t have a constitutional right to provide gaming in Alabama. All we have to do is get the right bill for you to vote on it in Alabama. That’s your decision, and we’re certainly gonna try to make that happen.” (Yellowhammer News)

School Choice & Education Savings Account Legislation

School choice has emerged as a prominent focal point in discussions surrounding education policy over recent years. Last year, several bills pertaining to school choice were presented but ultimately none of them were successful in passing. Rep. Ernie Yarbrough (R-Trinity), who sponsored school choice legislation in the 2023 regular legislative session, announced earlier this month that he plans to introduce a full school choice bill this year. 

Governor Kay Ivey

“In this upcoming legislative session, my top priority is ensuring (an) education savings account bill crosses the finish line.” (AL.com)

Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth

“At the end of the day, I’m for any bill that’s going to allow parents the option to decide what’s best for their children. I think there’s going to be several bills introduced. Whichever bill gets the momentum from the legislature, from the House and Senate and can pass I’m going to get behind.” (CBS 42)

Representative Ernie Yarbough (R-Trinity)

Describing his school choice proposal:  “Number one, it must be universal. All students in Alabama should be immediately eligible to benefit from the program. Number two, it must be flexible. Education savings accounts that can be used for a wide variety of educational expenses determined by the parents. Number three, it protects the autonomy of private schools and homeschoolers.” (AL.com)

State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey

“We need to have some accountability and transparency built into any law that proposes to use state funds.” (WSFA 12)