Friday, April 17, 2015
2015 Legislative Update: Week 6
The 2015 Legislative Session is approaching its midpoint, with the two major (and related) issues that must be addressed still undone: the General Fund Budget and the Governor’s Tax proposals. This week marked the 13th and 14th days of the 30-day meeting schedule. As yet, the only action on the General Fund Budget has been hearings in which the Governor’s cabinet members have set forth the dire situations that would result if the Legislature adjourns without passing the revenue measures proposed by the administration.
The Education Trust Fund (ETF)
In contrast to the General Fund Budget, the Education Budget is making its way through the Legislative process with some speed. On Tuesday, the Senate passed the ETF budget by a vote of 33-0. The budget is now in the House Ways & Means Education Committee, chaired by Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa). It is expected that the Committee will hold a hearing on the budget in the next couple of weeks and then report the bill to the floor for final passage. As noted in last week’s update, the ETF budget calls for the hiring of approximately seventy (70) additional teachers, as well as more money for pre-K programs and textbooks. It does not contain any funds for teacher pay raises.
The General Fund
In budget hearings this week, the Legislature heard from, among others, the State Department of Conservation and Natural Resources as well as the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. According to the heads of those Departments, the massive cuts that would be required in the event new revenue measures are not passed would result in the closure of at least six (6) State parks and the layoffs of as many as 100 State Troopers. It is unclear at this time how the Legislature will address the General Fund budget crisis. Hearing and Committee meetings on both the budget and the Governor’s tax proposals are expected in the next two weeks.
Governor’s Economic Incentives Package
Three of the bills in the Governor’s economic development package have yet to receive final passage. House Bill 214, sponsored by Rep. Victor Gaston (R-Mobile), which would extend the tax credit for the use of historic structures by seven years, has been reported to the House floor and is expected to be addressed soon by the full House. The Alabama Innovation Act, House Bill 304 sponsored by Rep. Phil Williams (R- Huntsville) remains ready for passage by the House. It would establish research and development tax credits for certain businesses. Finally, HB 416, the Alabama Renewal Act by Rep. Chris Pringle (R-Mobile) is pending in the House Ways & Means Education Committee.
As was the case last week, the Prison Reform bill sponsored by Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) was not acted upon this week by the House Judiciary Committee, House Judiciary is chaired by Rep. Mike Jones (R-Andalusia).
Data Breach Legislation
Senate Bill 106, sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) and known as the Alabama Information Protection Act of 2015 continues to be worked on, and very likely will be voted on by the Senate this coming week. The bill would require businesses that maintain databases of personal information to report data breaches
Guns in Cars
On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee favorably reported Senate Bill 14 by Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa). The bill would allow all Alabamians to carry a loaded pistol in their car, whether or not they possess a valid pistol permit. The bill was amended in Committee to preserve the minimal conditions that employers may place on their employees who want to have firearms in their cars parked in employer parking lots.
The Legislature has met fourteen (14) of the thirty (30) days permitted as part of its Regular Session. The House of Representatives is scheduled to reconvene for the fifteenth day on Tuesday, April 21 at 1:00 PM. The Senate will reconvene on the same day at 2:00 PM.