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Legislature working on school choice bills

A slate of school choice bills began to move through the legislative process last week.

First, Rep. Collins’ HB 363, which clarifies the funding structure for conversion charter schools and reforms the Alabama Charter Commission appointment process, passed the House on Thursday.

Alabama’s charter school law passed in 2015 and by next year, Alabama will have at least 12 operating charter schools across the state.

Next, Senator Stutts’ PRICE Act passed the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee this week after having been re-referred from the Senate Education Policy Committee.

The bill, which creates a new education savings account program, has been characterized as universal school choice for the approximately 700,000 students in Alabama. The bill passed out of committee by a vote of 12-3, but not before the committee added a significant amendment which capped the program at $50 million annually.

The cap would limit the program to about 7,000 students per year.

Last, a bill by Senator Chesteen significantly expanding the existing Alabama Accountability Act scholarship program also passed the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee this week.

The bill increases the cap for income tax credits, now set at $30 million annually, to $40 million. The bill also includes an escalator provision that will result in the cap increasing to $60 million/year over time.

The existing program allows businesses and individuals to receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit up to 100 percent of their tax liability, subject to certain caps, by donating to a Scholarship Granting Organization which, in turn, provides a scholarship for a student to attend a school of his or her choice.

ESG Bill Changes

Senator Roberts’ bill, SB 261, intended to push back against the national Environmental Social Governance (ESG) efforts, was substituted in the Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee on Wednesday. The business community expressed a number of concerns with the original bill and worked with Senator Roberts to address those concerns. The substitute bill incorporates many of the changes requested by the business community.

New State House Bill Gaining Momentum

SB 222, which, among other things, gives control of state-owned property that is currently a parking lot between the Alabama State House and the Alabama Department of Revenue returned to the Senate after the House made minor revisions. The Senate unanimously agreed with the House changes, sending the bill to Governor Ivey. Some believe this could reenergize conversations about building a new state house on the parking lot site.

The Alabama Legislature reconvened on Tuesday, May 16, with a maximum of 10 legislative days remaining before the end of the 2023 Session.

This update provided by the Economic Development Association of Alabama.

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