February 19, 2024 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

Several key issues hit the ground running last week in the legislature, with topics including legalized gambling, school choice and voting interference tactics like ballot harvesting sailing through the Senate, House and committees. 

Taxes were on the agenda, too. A bill to eliminate taxes on certain maternal and feminine hygiene products was approved by a Senate committee. And the state tax rate on groceries will remain unchanged for now due to slower growth in the Education Trust Fund.

Find details on this news and other important #alpolitics topics below.

February 19, 2024 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

@MarySellQuillen
Feb 16
Proposal would ‘eliminate barriers to employment’ for 14, 15 year olds https://aldailynews.com/proposal-would-eliminate-barriers-to-employment-for-14-15-year-olds/  #alpolitics

February 19, 2024 Group Watch: Day-by-Day, Play-by-Play

Tuesday, 4th day: 

  • The Senate County and Municipal Government Committee approved bills to provide for a limitation of liability regarding the use of public funds under certain conditions; to further provide for the membership of boards of registrars including an increase in compensation; and to further provide for the composition of the Board of Trustees of the Department of Archives and History. 
  • The Senate approved a bill to prohibit any person from ordering, requesting, collecting, prefiling, obtaining or delivering an absentee ballot application of a voter in certain circumstances and would provide for exceptions.

Wednesday, 5th day and a committee day:

  • The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill to provide that an individual sentenced pursuant to the habitual offender law may be re-sentenced in certain circumstances and to provide for the repeal of this section in five years.
  • The Senate State Governmental Affairs Committee approved a bill to require the state personnel director to regularly assess the requirements for employment in positions in the state service and to require the director to identify positions for which the requirement for employment may be reduced.
  • The Senate passed bills with substantive amendments to revise the composition and authorizing authority of the board of the Department of Archives and History, and to provide that county and municipal library boards serve at the pleasure of their appointing authorities.

Thursday, 6th day: 

  • The House approved two bills: one to propose a constitutional amendment to establish and regulate gaming, and one to establish the administrative mechanism to oversee gaming if the constitutional amendment is approved by the voters. 
  • The Senate passed bills to require the state personnel director to regularly assess job requirements and remove college degree requirement when practical; limit the liability of county commissions regarding the use of public funds; and further provide for membership on boards of registrars.

February 19, 2024 Group Watch: Gambling Bills Approved by House

Bills proposing a constitutional amendment to allow gambling and a second bill to form a regulatory body to oversee gaming in Alabama were approved by the House last week. The bill to allow a statewide vote on an amendment that will legalize sports betting, a lottery and casinos passed with a 70-32 vote. Democrats are on the same page, with all 28 House Dems voting in the affirmative, but Republicans are split on the issue, with several citing major concerns about the impacts legal gambling could have on some Alabama residents . Read more here.

February 19, 2024 Group Watch: School Choice Bill Making Progress

Governor Ivey named expanding school choice a top priority for this session, and a Senate bill, entitled The CHOOSE Act, to do just that is currently being revised to address concerns about the level of state funding before a committee vote. The CHOOSE Act is intended to bring the range of choices available to Alabama students and families on par with options recently expanded in other states. A public hearing last Wednesday allowed multiple voices to be heard. In addition, in a gathering of school choice advocates organized by the Alabama Policy Institute held last week, Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth addressed the crowd in support of the expansion of educational freedom as did a mother of five, who said universal school choice restores the proper role of the parent in the education process, and reintroduces competition and innovation in the education space, making all institutions better. Read more here.

February 19, 2024 Group Watch: Bill to Protect Elections Passes Senate

SB1, sponsored by Senator Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman), passed the Senate last week; the bill criminalizes ballot harvesting in effort to prevent voter fraud. If it becomes law, anyone who receives payment to help an Alabama voter fill out an absentee ballot could face up to 20 years in jail. It was approved by a vote of 27-8. The legislation makes it a Class C felony for a third party to knowingly receive payment or gift for distributing, ordering, requesting, collecting, completing, prefilling, obtaining or delivering a voter’s absentee ballot application and a Class B felony for someone to knowingly pay or provide a gift to a third party to distribute, order, request, collect, prefill, complete, obtain or deliver a voter’s absentee ballot application. Helping someone with an absentee ballot without being paid would be a Class A misdemeanor. The bill makes exceptions for voters who are blind, disabled, unable to read or write. Such voters can designate a helper other than the voter’s employer or agent of that employer or officer or agent of the voter’s union. Read more here.

February 19, 2024 Group Watch: AL Grocery Tax Likely to Remain Unchanged This Year

Growth in the Education Trust Fund missed the target that would trigger a 1 percent reduction in the state tax rate on groceries, meaning Alabamians will have to wait at least another year for a further reduction. A Legislative Services Agency official reported last week that revenues to the Education Trust Fund budget will grow less than 2 percent, below the 3.5 percent that would trigger a 1 percent cut in the tax under a law that passed last year. Alabama is one of 13 states that taxes groceries, and until September, was one of three states that fully taxed groceries. The 4 percent state tax, combined with local levies, added up to 10 percent to people’s food bills.

February 19, 2024 Group Watch: Bill to Un-Tax Maternal and Feminine Hygiene Products Approved in Committee

The Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee unanimously approved a bill that would take state sales and use taxes off certain maternity and feminine hygiene products. AB 62 by Senator Arthur Orr of Decatur would remove state sales taxes from baby formula, baby bottles, baby wipes, breast milk pumping equipment, breast pumps, diapers, maternity clothing and menstrual hygiene products for personal use. The Legislative Services Agency estimates the bill would cost the Education Trust Fund $8.7 million and the General Fund $2.5 million. An amendment altered the bill’s treatment of local taxes.

February 19, Group Watch: AL Senate Approves Bill Allowing Removals of Library Board Members

Last week, the Alabama Senate passed legislation allowing local city councils and county commissions to remove members of their local library boards. According to the bill’s sponsor, once board members are appointed, the current law does not expressly allow for their removal by the appointing authority. The full Senate tabled a committee amendment and replaced it instead with an amendment by Senator Clyde Chambliss of Prattville. His amendment requires a two-thirds majority necessary to remove someone from a library board. It also clarifies that joint libraries between counties and cities have the same language as libraries with just one government. Senator Rodger Smitherman of Birmingham added an amendment requiring the appointing authorities coordinate their appointments to ensure appointments reflect inclusion and the urban, rural and economic diversity of the state and each community. Senator Bobby Singleton of Greensboro added an amendment requiring each board report annually to the Governor, House Speaker and President Pro Tempore of the Senate any actions it has taken regarding the review or removal of items in their collection during the previous 12 months.

February 13, 2024 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The Alabama Legislature returned to Montgomery last Tuesday, and the 2024 regular session began. Both chambers convened in the historic old House chamber on Tuesday evening for Governor Kay Ivey’s State of the State address, where she declared the state “strong and prepared to move forward.”

Ivey outlined her agenda for this session and touted recent progress in the state including the $48 billion in investment and 86,000 new jobs that have been created during her tenure. She next announced that the new Commerce Secretary is launching a strategic plan to keep the progress going into the 2030’s.

We’ve got more information on all this, as well as other important #alpolitics topics below.

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