Category: Alabama Senate

Legislative Week in Review

The Alabama Legislature had another busy week.  The Alabama House passed several sunset bills along with the following:

Rep. Paul DeMarco’s HB25 Fiscal Transparency Legislation requiring the State Finance Department to produce monthly financial reports for the General Fund and the Education Trust Fund, and to publish them in a prominent place on the department’s website. This increased transparency will allow government agencies and the public to monitor the condition of the state’s budgets, making it easier to prepare for budget cuts, should they become necessary.

Rep. Wes Long’s HB8 which amends the definition of “child” to include the unborn.  It also creates a rebuttable presumption of exposing a child in utero to a controlled substance if both the mother and the child test positive for the same controlled substance not prescribed by a physician.

Rep. Jim McClendon’s HB102 ban on texting while driving.

Next week, the House will consider teacher tenure and the education budget.

The Alabama Senate saw a lot of action this week as well.  They had a few lively committee hearings on legislation:

SB140 Sen. Scott Beason’s reauthorization of the Forever Wild program

SB256 Sen. Scott Beason’s immigration reform legislation

SB236 Sen. Arthur Orr’s legislation to authorize furloughs for state employees

Next week, the Senate Health Committee will meet to consider several pieces of pro-life legislation.

AL Legislature Moving Quickly On Key Reforms

Since gaveling into session on March 1, 2011, the new GOP-controlled Alabama legislature has acted swiftly to get much-needed reform measures passed. The first and one of the most important of these was Rep. Greg Canfield’s Rolling Reserve Budget Act. Changing the way we budget the Education Trust Fund, Canfield’s bill will prevent proration in tough years. Legislators have also taken steps to restore fiscal responsibility to the state’s budget through the repeal of the state’s Deferred Retirement Option Program which will save taxpayers $70 million in additional benefits to state employees who work beyond retirement age.

Back in December they passed a complete overhaul of state ethics laws, and are continuing to strengthen them through legislation like Rep. Mike Ball’s HB58 requiring public officials/candidates and spouses of public officials/candidates to disclose if they are employed by the state or federal government or have a contract with the state or federal government.

Now they’ve turned their focus to the increasingly serious problem of illegal immigration. The Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform estimates the cost of illegal immigrants to the state of Alabama is $270 million a year. This estimate does not include many costs such as unemployment, gang violence and other criminal activity associated with illegal immigration. Rep. Micky Hammon and Sen. Scott Beason are looking to address this problem through HB56 and SB256 respectively.

Largely under the radar have been several pieces of legislation that make Alabama a more business-friendly environment. Rep. April Weaver’s legislation to allow qualifying employees to deduct from Alabama gross income 100% of the amounts they pay as health insurance premiums, Sen. Cam Ward’s legislation to provide tax credits to businesses that create jobs, and Sen. Paul Bussman’s bill to establish a 5-year property tax exemption for small businesses that relocate or expand in Alabama will improve economic development and create more jobs.

So far, the Alabama Legislature is off to a good start. If they continue to pass constructive reform measures and conservative legislation, they will get a solid A grading from us!

Coming Up This Week In The Alabama Legislature

On the House side:  The House is set to re-vote on the Obamacare Opt Out legislation.  Several Republicans were absent last Thursday, and it did not pass.  I’m told they have the votes to get it through this week.

On the Senate side:  The Senate may take up Sen. Beason’s immigration reform legislation in committee on Wednesday.

Other items on the regular calendar for this week:

Senate:

  • SB127-Limiting terms in the Alabama House and/or Senate to 3 terms.
  • SB136-Provides for electronic filing of campaign finance reports.
  • SB50-Provides tax credits for businesses that create jobs.
  • SB152-Establishes a 5-year property tax exemption for small businesses that relocate or expand in Alabama.
  • SB111-Prohibits counties and municipalities from collecting occupational tax.

House

  • HB32-Moves the presidential primary from March to June to coincide with state primary elections.
  • HB56-Immigration Reform legislation.
  • HB8-Amends the definition of “child” to include the unborn.
  • HB102-Ban on texting while driving.
  • HB126-Forever Wild reauthorization
  • HB211-Requires the state to provide liability insurance for teachers.

Legislative Week In Review

Another busy week for the Alabama Legislature.  This week, the House passed the following:

HB61 (Rep. April Weaver) Small Business Healthcare Tax Incentives Bill:  This legislation allows qualifying employees to deduct from Alabama gross income 100% of the amounts they pay as health insurance premiums as part of an employer provided health insurance plan provided by a qualifying employer.

HB19 (Rep. Kerry Rich) Voter ID:  Amends the Alabama Constitution to require voters to provide a valid photo ID in order to vote.

HB62 (Rep. Mike Jones) Ethics Commission Funding: Annual appropriation to fund the Alabama Ethics Commission.

HB58 (Rep. Mike Ball) Ethics Disclosure:  This legislation requires public officials/candidates and spouses of public officials/candidates to disclose if they are employed by the state or federal government or have a contract with the state or federal government.

Obamacare Opt Out:  The House attempted to pass a constitutional amendment (HB60) to preserve the freedom of Alabama citizens to make decisions about and provide for their own healthcare regardless of federal mandates.  Several Republican legislators were not present for the vote, and it failed.*  You can find out how your legislator voted here.  The House is expected to revote on this legislation next week.

*Rep. Owen Drake is in the hospital and could not be present for the vote.

Over in the Senate:

DROP legislation was amended and passed.  SB 72 (Sen. Del Marsh) DROP: Governor Bentley amended the DROP Bill to comply with the 90 day notice requirement and avoid legal challenges.  Both the House and Senate concurred with the amendment and it is now awaiting the Governor’s signature.

Legislative Week In Review

This was a busy 3-day week for the Alabama Legislature.  On Tuesday, the House passed one of the most significant pieces of legislation on the Republican agenda–Rep. Greg Canfield’s Rolling Reserve Budget Act–and the Senate voted to end the Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP).  Several important pieces of legislation also came out of committee on Tuesday including:

SB 17–Senator Cam Ward’s bill to cut ballot access requirements by half making it easier for independent and third party candidates to get on the ballot.

HB 56–Representative Micky Hammon’s immigration bill which requires businesses who receive economic development incentives to use e-verify, makes the entry, presence and involvement in economic activity of unauthorized illegal aliens a crime in this state, and requires law enforcement to verify the citizenship during routine enforcement of local, county or state laws.

SB112–Legislation by Senator Arthur Orr to remove racist language from the Alabama Constitution.

On Wednesday,  the House passed an amendment to the Alabama Constitution protecting the right to a secret ballot in employee representation (HB64).

Thursday ended the legislative week with the Senate passing the Rolling Reserve Budget Act and the House passing the DROP legislation.  There was, however, some confusion with the DROP legislation in the House regarding the date DROP would end.  The enacting legislation appears to require the state to give participants 90 days to get out of the program, and the legislation the House was considering ended the program on April 1, 2011.  Some legislators were concerned the bill could be thrown out in court because of the failure to give the 90 day notice.  Rep. Harry Shiver introduced an amendment to move the end date to June 1, 2011.  While that amendment passed, it was later stripped.

Governor Bentley signed the Rolling Reserve Budget Act into law at 11:30 this morning.

Next week is Spring Break for the legislators.

Tuesday’s Legislative Activity

It was a busy day in Montgomery, Rep. Greg Canfield’s Rolling Reserve Budget Act HB 57 passed the House (you can find more information about the legislation here) and the Alabama Senate voted (23-12) to end the Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP) SB72 saving taxpayers millions of dollars.  For more information on DROP and why it needs to be repealed, click here.  You can find out how your legislators voted on both bills by clicking here.

Beyond that, Several pieces of legislation passed out of committee today:

SB 17–Senator Cam Ward’s bill to cut ballot access requirements by half making it easier for independent and third party candidates to get on the ballot.

HB 56–Representative Micky Hammon’s immigration bill which requires businesses who receive economic development incentives to use e-verify, makes the entry, presence and involvement in economic activity of unauthorized illegal aliens a crime in this state, and requires law enforcement to verify the citizenship during routine enforcement of local, county or state laws.

SB112–Legislation by Senator Arthur Orr to remove racist language from the Alabama Constitution.

GOP Is Poised To Drop DROP This Week

I’m hearing reports from multiple sources who say the DROP bill will be on the Governor’s desk by Thursday of this week.  The Governor’s proposed budget hinges on the elimination of the DROP program to avoid layoffs.  For a good review of what the DROP program is and why it needs to be repealed, check out this fact sheet from the ALGOP.  The Alabama Policy Institute also has a good comprehensive study on the program.

Legislative Week in Review–Week 1

The Alabama legislature gaveled in at 12 noon on March 1, 2011 with a Republican-controlled House and Senate.  It was a very busy week that followed as the GOP is moving legislation quickly through committee.  Here are some of the key pieces of legislation that came out of committee this week:

HB57–Rep. Greg Canfield’s Rolling Reserve Budget Act will change the budgeting process for the Education Trust Fund to cap spending at a 15-year rolling average.

HB59–Rep. Barry Mask’s legislation to eliminate the state’s Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP)

HB64–Rep. Kurt Wallace’s constitutional amendment that protects the right to a secret ballot  in employee representation.

HB61–Rep. April Weaver’s bill to allow businesses to deduct 200% of the amount they pay in health insurance premiums on their state income tax.

Start of the 2011 Legislative Session

The Alabama Legislature will gavel in tomorrow at 12 noon.  Here’s a preview of what you can expect during this session:

The 2011 legislative session can be summed up in one word–Budget.  It’s all about the budget this year.  Revenue shortfalls and the loss of federal stimulus money have led to serious budget woes for the Alabama legislature.  Governor Bentley and House and Senate leadership are warning of serious cuts.  The Alabama Education Trust Fund is in a slightly better situation than originally forecasted, so it may emerge relatively intact.  The Alabama General Fund, however, is a different story.  Look for another round of proration, layoffs or furloughs of state employees, and possibly even the complete elimination of some departments and agencies.

Budget

The Rolling Reserve Budget Act (RRBA) is a top priority for Republican legislators.  Introduced by Rep. Greg Canfield, the RRBA changes the way we budget from a revenue forecasting method to a 15-year rolling average.  Spending is capped at the 15-year average, and in years where revenue exceeds that cap the surplus will go into a savings account to prepare for years where revenues fall short of the average.  This will be a big step toward avoiding proration in the Education budget in the future.

Jobs

Job creation is also a running theme in pre-session interviews with legislators.  Look for some form of tax credits for companies who hire new employees.  There is also a move to increase the tax credit for employers who provide health insurance to their employees from 150% to 200%.

Immigration

Rep. Micky Hammon has introduced HB56 which is similar to legislation passed in Arizona on immigration.  The bill requires businesses who receive economic development incentives to use e-verify, makes the entry, presence and involvement in economic activity of unauthorized illegal aliens a crime in this state, and requires law enforcement to verify the citizenship during routine enforcement of local, county or state laws.

Health Care

In their Handshake with Alabama, Republicans pledged to immediately introduce and work to pass a constitutional amendment that would ‘prohibit any person, employer or health care provider from being compelled to participate in any health care system.'” This amendment would essentially be a nullification of Obamacare and would be similar to measures introduced or passed in at least 30 other state legislatures across the country.

Transparency

Rep. Paul DeMarco has introduced legislation (HB25) that will reform the state’s online check register and reporting system.  The goal is to make it easier for the layperson to use and understand.

This list is hardly exhaustive of all that will come up this session, but it’s a good start.  I’m told the session will be an easy one, completing the budgets, passing a few key pieces of legislation, and sine die.  It will be interesting to see if things run that smoothly.  For a complete list of measures we support (and oppose) check out our legislative agenda.