The Alabama State Legislature met for two days last week, breaking a consistent pattern of three-day weeks during this Regular Session. Despite the “break” on Wednesday, both legislative bodies put in significant hours due to serious debate on a number of substantive and controversial bills.
After a few weeks of late nights and heated debates, this week is a much-needed spring break for the Legislature. They will return on Tuesday March 29, which will be the 24th day of the 30-day session. We expect the Legislature to resume the three-day week pattern until the conclusion of the session.
When they return, the General Fund Budget will likely be addressed in conference committee, and the Education Trust Fund Budget will see committee action. Movement of the budgets usually signals that the end of session is near, and we are hearing that the Legislature could conclude the Regular Session within two to three weeks after Spring Break.
(This Alabama legislative report is courtesy of the Economic Development Association of Alabama.)
The Senate approved SB 261 by Senator Dan Roberts on Tuesday. The bill would increase the amount individuals and corporations may give (and therefore receive a tax credit) to educational scholarship granting organizations under the Alabama Accountability Act. The bill does not increase the current annual cumulative tax credit cap of $30,000,000; it simply allows individuals and corporations to give more and receive a tax credit equal to 100% of the contribution. The bill is expected to be considered by House committee when they reconvene after Spring Break.
The Senate also passed a bill Thursday that would allow county tax revenue to go to public charter schools. Currently, county tax revenue earmarked for education is distributed among the county school system and any city systems within that county. Under SB 302, charter schools in a county could receive a portion of that revenue based on their annual enrollment. As amended on the floor, the bill specifies that charter schools will not receive more state funding per student than traditional public schools in a county and ensures that counties with less than 40,000 residents are not required to dedicate local funds to charter schools. The bill now goes to the House for consideration.
The House passed a bill Thursday largely along party lines that would prohibit a list of “divisive concepts relating to race or sex” from being taught in public K-12 schools and from workplace training for state entities. HB 9 lists nine such concepts, including:
- That one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex.
- That this state or the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist
- That an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously
- That an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex
- That members of one race or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race or sex
- That an individual’s moral character is necessarily determined by his or her race or sex
- That an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex
- That any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex
- That meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist, or were created by a particular race to oppress another race
The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.
General Fund Budget
The House approved a $2.7 billion General Fund budget Tuesday, moving it closer to final passage. House changes required that the bill be returned to the Senate, which voted to go to a conference committee to resolve the differences between the two versions. Of note, the plan includes a 4% raise for current state employees and a one-time bonus for retired state employees.
The Senate amended and passed a bill Thursday that would require individuals to apply for a minimum of three jobs per week to be eligible to receive state unemployment benefits. Under SB 224, the Department of Labor “shall require the claimant to provide proof of work search efforts when filing his or her weekly certification” and “shall conduct random reviews of at least 10 percent of the work search proof provided by claimants each week.” The bill now moves to the House for consideration.
The House Economic Development and Tourism Committee approved a “lottery-only” bill Thursday that would allow for lottery ticket sales but does not include the casino or sports betting provisions found in the Senate proposal. Under HB 501, revenue from the lottery ticket sales would go toward education, including scholarships and student loan repayment grants. The Senate has yet to vote on its gambling package and now may wait to see how HB 501 fares in the House. However, time is quickly becoming an issue. If either proposal is passed by the Legislature, it would require voter approval on the November ballot.
The Senate gave final passage to a bill Thursday that would change the involuntary commitment process for people with mental health issues. HB 70 would allow a probate judge to consider “the respondent’s actions occurring within the two-year period immediately preceding the hearing” and would define “real and present threat of substantial harm to self or others” to include “a significant risk that an individual who is exhibiting behavior consistent with a mental illness, as a result of the mental illness, will do either of the following: By action or inaction, cause, allow, or inflict serious bodily harm upon himself, herself, or another individual [or] be unable to satisfy his or her need for nourishment, medical care, shelter, or self-protection so that there is a substantial likelihood of death, serious bodily harm, serious physical debilitation, serious mental debilitation, or life-threatening disease.” The bill now goes to Governor Ivey.
The Senate Health Care Committee approved a bill, reportedly without a quorum, Wednesday pertaining to “off label” prescriptions of drugs that have already been approved by the FDA. SB 312 would:
- Prohibit an occupational licensing board from taking adverse action against a physician who recommends a COVID-19 treatment that is not FDA-approved
- Require a patient’s written, informed consent to receive a physician’s recommended COVID-19 treatment if the treatment is not FDA-approved
- Require pharmacies to fulfill prescriptions that are not FDA-approved to treat COVID-19
- Require health care facilities to provide a patient’s requested off-label COVID-19 treatment
- Provide a cause of action against an occupational licensing board, pharmacy, or health care facility that violates the provisions of the bill
- Provide that a health care facility, pharmacy, and licensing board that complies with this bill is immune from civil liability related to certain COVID-19 treatments