Sunday, February 10, 2013
2013 ALABAMA LEGISLATIVE UPDATE - WEEK ONE
On Tuesday, February 5, Lt. Governor Kay Ivey and Speaker Mike Hubbard gaveled their respective chambers to order and began the 2013 Regular Legislative Session. The Legislature meets each year in Regular Session and may is permitted only 30 meeting days in a 105 calendar day period. This year's session is therefore expected to conclude in late May.
That evening, Governor Bentley spoke to a joint session of the Legislature in his annual State of the State address and outlined his agenda for the coming year. As always, the Governor focused on job creation and retention, and specifically highlighted the rebuilding of the Wrangler plant in Hackleburg, a town devastated by the April 2011 storms. Governor Bentley also noted Airbus America's selection of Mobile as the site of their latest commercial aircraft production facility. According to the Governor, this plant, along with multiple Airbus suppliers expected to settle in the area, will mean thousands of new well-paying jobs for Alabama workers.
The Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program, or ATRIP, was another focus of Governor Bentley's address. ATRIP allows counties to make much-needed repairs to Alabama's roads and bridges. At the time of his speech, some 439 projects had been approved in almost every county in the state. Governor Bentley noted that good roads and bridges will not only benefit Alabamian's day-to-day lives; a well-developed and safe infrastructure will be an attractive asset as companies evaluate our state as a place to do business.
Finally, the Governor dedicated a significant portion of his address to his education agenda, including the expansion and increased funding of the voluntary Pre-K program, school district flexibility, and a two-and-a-half percent pay raise for Alabama teachers and support personnel.
The House and Senate each met three days this week with the House focusing on the Republican Caucus' "We Dare Defend Our Rights" agenda. In fact, all ten (10) measures included in the House Republican agenda cleared their committees on Wednesday and as such were positioned to be considered by the full House on Thursday morning when they convened. First up on Thursday, as promised by Speaker Hubbard, was the "People's Trust Act", which sets a repayment plan for the $437 million taken from the Alabama Trust Fund to balance the General Fund budget. Some objections to the bill, which does not fully repay the Trust Fund until 2026, were raised, however, the bill, sponsored by Representative Jay Love (R-Montgomery) passed 80-19. The People's Trust Act now moves to the Senate, where similar legislation was introduced by Senator Brian Taylor (R- Prattville).
Also included in the House Republican Agenda, but not considered by the full House this week, is HB 101, the Red Tape Reduction Act, which would require each state agency to prepare a Business Economic Impact Statement prior to taking any regulatory action that could have an adverse impact on businesses. The act also requires agencies to periodically review and eliminate any unneeded or burdensome regulations. This review would provide the Legislature an additional mechanism to protect our state’s economy from needless and damaging bureaucratic initiatives. In addressing the legislation, Speaker Hubbard remarked, “Rather than jumping through hoops to fill out needless paperwork and comply with inane government regulations, business owners should spend their time growing their companies, expanding opportunities and creating jobs, and this bill helps accomplish that goal.”
Another bill that reported out of committee as part of the "We Dare Defend Our Rights" agenda was a Constitutional Amendment sponsored by Representative Mike Jones that would require any restriction on the right to bear arms be subject to strict scrutiny. Speaking to the Republican caucus in January, Speaker Hubbard said the measure was patterned after a constitutional amendment passed last year in Louisiana. Several other gun-rights bills have been introduced already this session, including Senate Bill 129, a broad-based measure by Senator Scott Beason that would require employers to allow employees to bring guns to work - as long as the weapon remained out of sight in a locked vehicle, would allow demonstrators to carry holstered firearms in public, and would require - except in very limited circumstances - sheriffs to issue concealed carry permits. Senator Beason's bill was carried over by the Senate Business and Labor Committee, but is expected to be considered in the coming weeks.
The 2013 Regular Session resumes on Tuesday, February 12 when the Senate reconvenes at 12:00 pm. The House of Representatives is scheduled to reconvene the same day at 2:30 pm. Though subject to change, the Legislature is expected to use two legislative days next week: on Tuesday and Thursday.