Tag: DROP

Reforming Alabama: Recapping the 2011 Legislative Session

Focus Of 2011 Session Was Serious Reforms

Last Thursday marked the end of the first Republican-controlled legislative session in 136 years.  It was an extremely productive session with Republicans passing several badly needed reforms.  The first of these was Representative Greg Canfield’s Rolling Reserve Budget Act which also had the distinction of being the first bill Governor Bentley signed into law.  It will have a significant impact on the future budgets and prevent proration for years to come.  Also noteworthy were Senator Trip Pittman’s reform of the teacher tenure system, the elimination of the state’s Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP), and Representative Jay Love’s legislation to increase retirement contributions by state employees.

Alabama made national news with the passage of Senator Scott Beason and Representative Micky Hammon’s immigration reform legislation.  According to Kris Kobach, one of the nation’s top immigration lawyers and current Kansas Secretary of State, Alabama now has the strongest law deterring illegal immigration in the country.

The legislature passed pro-life legislation including a ban on abortion after 20 weeks when the unborn child can feel pain (HB18).  Unfortunately, several pro-life bills got caught up in the filibuster process and failed to pass.  These include Personhood legislation that would define persons as all humans from the point of fertilization and the Health Care Rights of Conscience Act which gives health care providers, institutions and payers the right to decline to perform services that violate their consciences.  Also on the health care front, the legislature passed Representative Blaine Galliher’s HB60 which prohibits mandatory participation in any health care system, essentially opting us out of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

The legislature also passed legislation that will improve campaign finance records and improve transparency.  Two great examples are Senator Arthur Orr’s SB136 which requires electronic filing of campaign contributions starting a year before the election monthly, and then requires weekly filings beginning a month before the election, and Representative Paul DeMarco’s Fiscal Transparency Act which requires 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.  They also took measures to improve election security by passing Representative Kerry Rich’s amendment to the Alabama Constitution to require voters to provide a valid photo ID in order to vote.

Businesses both big and small will benefit from Representative April Weaver’s legislation to allow businesses to deduct 100% of the amount they pay in health insurance premiums on their state income tax and Representative Blaine Galliher’s bill to authorize an income tax credit for employers creating jobs.  The legislature also took steps to protect the right to a secret ballot in employee representation by passing Representative Kurt Wallace’s HB64.

Another good budget measure passed was Representative Jack Williams’ HB13 which will allow for the use of life cycle budgeting in competitive bids and public works projects.

There were a few pieces of controversial legislation that sparked heated debate this session.  One such bill would have reauthorized the Forever Wild Land Trust program.  Eventually a compromise was reached, and the legislature passed Senator Dick Brewbaker’s constitutional amendment to reauthorize the Forever Wild program allowing the people of Alabama to vote on the issue in 2012.

Representative Jack Williams’ bill to grant the Jefferson County Commission limited home rule to levy additional taxes prompted fierce debate on both sides.  After passing the House Jefferson County Delegation by a vote of 9 – 8, the bill died in the Alabama Senate after a contest filed by Senator Scott Beason.

Another controversial bill would have enforced a sales and/or “use” tax on goods ordered on the internet from out of state.  Eagle Forum fought hard against this legislation and we are very pleased to say it did not pass.  To learn more about this bill, go to alabamaeagle.org.  Eagle Forum also worked against Representative John Merrill’s HB6 which would have lowered the mandatory school age from 7 to 6 years of age.  This bill was stopped in the Alabama Senate.

There were a few pieces of good legislation that didn’t pass.  We would have liked to have seen passed Representative Paul DeMarco’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (HB427) and Senator Cam Ward’s Foreign Law Prohibition Bill (SB61), along with Senator Dick Brewbaker’s resolution encouraging the State Board of Education to retain complete control over Alabama’s academic standards (SJR153), but time ran out.  While Senator Paul Bussman’s shared parenting legislation (SB196) did not pass, a constructive dialogue began and we hope he will come back next year with a stronger bill.

Overall, we think the members of the Alabama Legislature, Speaker Hubbard and Pro Tem Marsh deserve a solid A for this successful session, and we hope they will continue to be committed to passing the kind of serious reforms they addressed this year.

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!

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.