Sunday, March 25, 2012
ALABAMA LEGISLATIVE UPDATE - WEEK 7
The Alabama Legislature continued to focus on job creation as they reached the half-way point of the 2012 Regular Session and headed into a down week for spring break. Prior to the legislative week, Governor Bentley was forced to declare proration of 10.6% in the General Fund for the current fiscal year last Friday. Unfortunately, the budget shortfall for the coming fiscal year is equally bleak, with a projected shortfall in the General Fund of between $300-500 million. As yet, neither the Education nor General Fund budgets have been introduced this session, some substantial - and difficult - work remains for the remaining fifteen legislative days.
Academy Award winner and Alabama native Octavia Spencer returned to her hometown on Wednesday to receive the keys to the city from Mayor Todd Strange. Governor Robert Bentley honored the actress by declaring March 21st “Octavia Spencer Day.” Ms. Spencer used her time in Montgomery to encourage the Senate to pass a bill sponsored by Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, that would expand state incentives for film companies and increase the size of film projects that qualify for them. The House of Representatives already voted 101-0 for the companion bill earlier this session.
This week, the Legislature gave final passage to the "Heroes for Hire" Tax Credit Act. This bill provides tax credits to employers who hire recently returned veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill has been sent to the Governor for his signature.
On Thursday, the Senate passed a bill that would provide a special tax incentive allowing Alabama to target aircraft manufacturers and aircraft parts manufacturers. The plan would reduce sales-tax collections by the state Education Trust Fund by an estimated $2.4 million to $3.5 million a year, and would expire in May 2020. Sen. Ben Brooks, R-Mobile, said the tax-break could lead to job expansion at aircraft maintenance plants in Alabama. ''This is a pro-jobs bill,'' Brooks said. The version passed by the Senate differs slightly from the bill previously passed by the House, so the bill is pending House concurrence in the Senate changes, or possibly a conference committee to work out the differences.
Senate Bill 388 was approved this week by the Alabama Senate Finance and Taxation- General Fund Committee. The Committee voted 7-4 in favor of reducing pension benefits for employees of state agencies and public schools, colleges and universities who are hired on or after Jan 1, 2013; this measure is expected to save the state of Alabama $5 billion dollars over 31 years in estimated pension costs. The bill is expected to be debated by the full Senate as soon as the session resumes.
A bill proposing a constitutional amendment that would allow for voters to recall public officials passed in the Senate Constitution, Campaign Finance, Ethics & Elections Committee this week. "I think from time to time we have elected officials that get totally out of touch with the electors they are supposed to be representing, and this is a measure of accountability," said bill sponsor Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville. "I don't think it is something that will be used every year, but I think it is another tool of good government." Nineteen states currently have this law.
There was no movement this week on Senate Bill 331, which would prohibit an employer from enforcing policies against bringing firearms to work, would infringe upon property rights and place new restrictions on property owners and employers. SB 331 awaits action by the full Senate, and HB 471 is pending in the House Committee on Commerce and Small Business.
In addition to the budgets, the Legislature is expected to focus on similarly thorny issues such as charter schools and the much anticipated "tweaks" to last year's immigration bill when they return the first week of April. The Session resumes on Tuesday, April 3, when the House of Representatives will convene at 1:00 pm. The Senate will re-convene on the same day at 2:00 pm.
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