February 15, 2021 Group Watch: Gambling in AL: What’s Ahead

All eyes were focused on first readings as a wide-ranging bill from Senator Del Marsh was introduced. Marsh’s bill, which is not final, will address the casino gambling issue, with limited expansion in certain parts of the state, and also includes a call for a lottery and the legalization of some form of sports betting. Aside from the business of gambling, the other issue is whether and how to limit political spending by gambling interest. The Senate spent time on Thursday talking about these matters, and many realize there is considerable work to be done before passing legislation for citizens to consider in a referendum. Read a summary of the gaming proposal here.

February 15, 2021 Group Watch: Hot Topics Coming

The legislature has moved quickly and accomplished a lot already, but when it reconvenes next week, there’s still a lot to do, and there’s a long list of issues on the table, many of which are likely to stir up intense disagreements. Bills concerning guns, the governor’s emergency powers, marijuana, voting laws, the gambling proposal and more promise some spirited debate in the weeks to come. Read more here.

February 15, 2021 Group Watch: COVID Relief Funds Tax Exempt

A bill that makes Alabamians’ COVID-19 relief funds exempt from being taxed by the state has cleared its final hurdle. The Alabama Senate passed one of the top priority bills of the session just a week after House approval. The legislation also makes modifications to the state’s corporate tax code to help Alabama-based businesses.

Gaming-Proposal-Summary-

February 8, 2021 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The Alabama Legislature’s 2021 Regular Session began last week, with COVID-19 and education concerns taking center stage. Read on for a quick breakdown of House and Senate activity and see below for more details on the Governor’s plans and priorities for the coming months.
  • Wednesday, February 3 (2nd legislative day and a committee day): The House State Government Committee approved several bills, including bills to allow certain municipalities to levy ad valorem tax for bonds to finance projects and use the proceeds for direct payments to finance capital improvements, and to exclude from competitive bids for local boards of education and governmental entities purchasing agreements to include leases and lease/purchase agreements. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a number of bills, including bills to extend immunity for certain entities from claims relating to contraction or exposure to coronavirus; to require redaction of contract information from court documents released to the public relating to elder persons, and to establish a program to allow medical cannabis for certain conditions. The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee approved a bill to authorize the amounts in a reserve account over $1 million of a solid waste program to be spent by a county or municipality for lawful purposes. The Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee approved a bill to authorize the deployment and installation of small wireless facilities and associated poles, towers and base stations on public rights-of-way.
  • Thursday, February 4 (3rd legislative day): The House passed bills to renew and extend economic development incentives; to further provide for the appropriation of federal funds for the Alabama Rental Assistance Fund to the Department, and to authorize certain municipalities to levy ad valorem tax for bonds to finance projects and use the proceeds for direct payments to finance capital improvements. The Senate passed a number of bills, including bills to provide immunity for certain entities from claims relating to contraction of or exposure to coronavirus; to provide an exemption from sales and use tax for certain entities; to authorize the installation and deployment of small wireless facilities and associated poles, towers and base stations on the right-of-way, and to provide for the determination of cost to include student growth as an allowable allowance for students under the School Foundation Program Fund.
The House and Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, February 9 at 1 PM and 2 PM, respectively.

February 8, 2021 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

@willainsworthAL
Feb. 2
Since Republicans took the Legislature in 2010, Del Marsh has been an honest, inspirational, and fair-minded Senate President Pro Tem. Our thanks to Sen. Marsh for helping reform AL’s government, and we wish our new Pro Tem Greg Reed much success as he leads the upper chamber.

February 8, 2021 Group Watch: Gov Ivey’s “State of the State”

Last week, Governor Kay Ivey gave the annual “state of the state” address from the old House Chamber in the Alabama State Capitol to a virtual and television audience. Her remarks largely focused on helping the state recover from the coronavirus pandemic and on distribution of the vaccine, and she also shared her plan to build multiple prisons. The governor made education and getting students back to the classroom a priority. She is proposing a 2 percent pay raise for state employees and teachers, emphasizing that, “It is the right time to do the right thing.” She praised the legislature for its work to address broadband access and internet connectivity, noting that in the last week, her administration had partnered with C-Spire for its $500 million dollar investment in Alabama over the next three years. The investment will provide broadband to 100,000 homes and businesses in the state, and it is anticipated that this expansion will result in many of the state’s rural citizens and businesses gaining reliable access to broadband and internet services. Governor Ivey also addressed gambling, acknowledging that she has not been an out-front champion of the activity, but stressing that she believes the people of Alabama should have the final say. She said a thoughtful and deliberate debate on the matter in a transparent legislative process is in the best interest of the state.

February 8, 2021 Group Watch: Education A Priority in 2021 Session

Alabama state revenue is solid and safe for the current budget year thanks to conservative budgeting, Rolling Reserve Act safeguards and the growth of online sales tax revenue from the Simplified Sellers Use Tax. The governor announced her proposal for a 2 percent raise for public education employees, which seems to have legislative support. There also seems to be support for STEM incentives and professional development. Education entities support a proposal to offset the financial loss to school systems due to virus-related enrollment loss. The state is moving forward with the new state assessment so that educators have a critical baseline to assess student progress.

February 8, 2021 Group Watch: Session Taking Early Break

After this Thursday, the legislature will push pause for a week. The break will give lawmakers the chance to evaluate how well COVID-19 safety measures in the Senate and House have worked and to assess the status of legislation in progress to set priorities for the coming weeks. Both the Senate and the House will reconvene on Tuesday, February 23.

February 8, 2021 Group Watch: New Pres Pro Tem Sworn In

Last Tuesday, Senator Greg Reed (R-Jasper) was sworn in as the Alabama Senate’s president pro tempore. He was elected to the position — the upper chamber’s highest — by a unanimous vote. Reed has served in the Senate since 2010 and was previously the majority leader in the Senate; a role he held since 2014. He succeeds previous pro tem, Senator Del Marsh (R-Anniston), who announced he will not seek reelection in 2022 and decided to step down from his leadership position for his final two years.

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