2016 Newsletter Final Issue May 6, 2016
From Our DesK: Another Legislative Session has convened and adjourned, but that doesn't mean the work is finished. Word on Union Street is there may be a special session to work on prison reform and Medicaid funding. The clock is ticking away for either a Medicaid extension for RCO expansion or to cut major aspects from the Alabama Medicaid program.
An Ode to Bill: I'm just a bill. Yes, I'm only a bill. And I'm sitting here on Goat Hill... But I know I'll be a law someday
While many bills were introduced this session--574 House Bills and 431 Senate bills to be exact--not every piece of legislation makes it through the tumultuous process of passing both legislative chambers and then on to the Governors desk. Below we have listed major bills that have died and some that made it out alive.
At least I hope and pray that I will, But today I am still just a bill.
In the end, 73 Senate Bills passed and enacted into law and 62 House Bills passed and enacted into law.
Sine DieD Bills that did not take center-stage during the 2016 Session: Lottery: While many pundits have suggested that if given theopportunity, the citizens of Alabama would vote in favor of some type oflottery. Several bills on this subject were introduced early or evenpre-filed prior to the session but lawmakers on the Senate Tourism andMarketing Committee stalled so that time would run out prior to a vote on theSenate floor. One of the proposals allowed Alabama to join multi-statelottery games like Powerball. It never made it out of thecommittee. After the number of Alabamians seen flocking to neighboringstates to participate in the recent lottery, many believed that this would bethe year. Not so muchâ€Ś. Local bills for Macon and Greene Counties on the subject ofelectronic bingo also failed to pass. Gasoline Tax: While some powerful lawmakers such asHouse Rules Chairman, Mac McCutcheon, advocated for some type of gas tax; ittoo was met with resistance. Some believed that since there has been aprice break in gas for the first time in years, a hike would hinder workingfamilies. Still others had made pledges for no new taxes in theirdistricts and believed a vote for the tax would make a great televisioncommercial for a potential opponent. Historic Tax Credit: The bill to continue the $20million tax credit for restoring historical buildings is set to expire nextmonth and did not get renewed. As reported it did pass the House but theSenate failed to give the bill even a committee hearing. Prep Act: The Senate Pro Tem was the advocate for thislegislation that called for teacher pay to be tied to student test scores andalso extended the time for a teacher to achieve tenure from 3 to 5 years. It was met with such resistance from several state education groups that thebill was shelved for the 2016 session. Abortion: This bill was a Constitutional Amendment thatwould allow voters in November to vote on banning abortion. A Democraticfilibuster in the House prevented the passage of this legislation. Hate Crimes: An attempt to extend the stateâ€™s hatecrime statute to include sexual
orientation or gender identity died in theHouse.
And the winner is ... Upon Sine Die, The House of Representatives on Thursday awarded Rep. Connie Rowe the annual Shroud Award. Lawmakers have given the “Shroud Award” for the “deadest” bill of the legislative session to a bid to regulate and legalize fantasy sports. The trophy - a black suit mounted on cardboard - is a longstanding tradition on the final night of session.
Tax Credit Bills that Passed SmallBusiness Credit if Jobs Created Beginning July 25, 2016 Alabamabusinesses with 75 or fewer employees can claim a one-time, $1,500 income taxcredit for each new, full-time, Alabama resident employee hired for a job thatpays $40,000 or more annually. Tax Credit for Veterans The governorsigned HB 36 into law Tuesday andwas assigned Act No. 2016-188. Thelegislation, sponsored by Rep. Kyle South, allows for an additional $1,000income tax credit (for a total of $2,500) if the new employee hired is arecently returned, unemployed veteran as part of the 2012 Heroes for Hire Act.To qualify for the credit, businesses must retain the new employee for a fullyear. In addition, businesses must show a net employee growth each year toqualify for the credit. Tax Credit for Hiring Apprentices SB90 by Sen. Arthur Orr was sent to theGovernor for his signature on May 3. This legislation provides employers with a$1,000 income tax credit for each of up to five qualified apprentices employed.Employers must train the apprentices (16 years old or older) for at least sevenmonths in a tax year. Each year, the tax credits allowed would be capped at $3million, or 3,000 apprentices. The program begins with the 2017 tax year andwould sunset after five years if not renewed by the Legislature.
Other Bills Passed into Law Health Savings Account Bill Passed Lawmakers on Tuesday passed HB 109, the Health Savings Account Income TaxDeduction bill by Rep. Becky Nordgren. The bill had previously passed the House and was sent to the Governor for signature. Under HB 109, a new state income tax deduction would beavailable for contributions made after Dec. 31, 2017. The bill would limit thetotal annual amount exempt from income taxation to the annual deduction amountallowed by federal law or regulation, currently $3,350 for individuals and $6,750for families. An additional amount is allowed for individuals over the age of55.
Other Bills That Made It Out Alive SB 263: State Income Tax Filing Aligned to Federal Filing Calendar HB 311: State Tax Increment District Tool; Constitutional Amendment for Local Municipalities SB 208: Tax Incentive Use Reporting System Created HB 534: Governor's Office on Minority Affairs Established by law
Special Session on Medicaid and Prisons Looming During Sultry Summer Months Prison Bill Imprisoned in Legislature; Design BuildQuestioned by Lawmakers A cornerstone of the Bentley agenda for the 2016session may be a catalyst for a Special Session during the hot summer monthsafter the tumultuous Regular Session. The prison bill was on life support formost of the session and died in the final hours of the 30 legislative days. Itclearly took up most of the day and night with debate in the Senate. Finally, avote of 23 to 12 late Wednesday passed the Senate. It however, made severalchanges to the bill causing it to be sent back to the House. This came afterseveral attempts to pass some version that both bodies could agree upon. Severallawmakers in both the House and the Senate just wanted the bill to run out oftime prior to passage and they were successful. And that is what occurred. The Housedid not vote on the bill before time expired Wednesday night at midnight.
"I don’t want to pass something that lookslike it was written on the back of an envelope in two hours," SpeakerHubbard said. "This was something we had worked on for months, and werereally comfortable the numbers worked." He also knew that that there werenot enough votes to cut off the filibuster so the bill would have died even ifhad been considered. His counterpart, Minority Leader, Rep. Craig Ford statedit in a more blunt fashion. “Somebody’s got to be getting something out of (theprison bill) if it’s that damn important to bring it up at 11:30 p.m. Severalother legislators believed that the building of the new prisons should be donein a piece meal fashion so that the legislators would have a better idea of thecosts, etc. of the projects. Proponents of the plan cited the over-crowdedconditions and the ADA compliant lawsuits force the state to engage in a planor a federal take-over could ensue. Although Bentley had threatened to call aspecial session if the bill in the form presented at the get go was not passed,he had no comment after the bill failed this week. The original plan would have closed some existingprisons and replace them with four new facilities, for a mere $800 million. Thecompromise cut the price tag to a bargain of $550 million and reduced thenumber of prisons from three to two. However, the proposed compromise still keptthe construction of a new women's prison utilizing the traditional competitivebid and allowed a design/build with no competitive bid on the men's prisons. Legislatorsexpressed grave concern over the design build concept.
Ticktock, Ticktock: Medicaid Money Maze While lawmakers cited reasons of lacking funds, Alabama legislators voted to delay the official start date of the approved 2013 Medicaid plan. The Medicaid reform, which included Regional Care Organizations (RCOs), was scheduled to begin Oct. 1, 2016. HB 530 by Rep. April Nodgren, passed the Senate to give RCOs some time to catch up and receive certification. As the Governor stated "Everybody’s got to rest a little bit right now" (lawdy, don't all lobbyist agree?), there is still so much to be done regardless if a special session is called. Thus far, legislators were able to scrounge up $700 million needed to go towards the $785 million Medicaid Agency requested. The biggest reason there is such a surge in Medicaid enrollment is due to the 2008 recession. There are simply more Alabamians in need than the Agency can care for. Be that as it may, legislators concern over illegal immigrants receiving Medicaid care was mollified during the Medicaid Joint Study Group presentations. It was made clear the only time an illegal immigrant receives Medicaid care is when a female immigrant receives services for labor and delivery, as the child would be then cared for. No prenatal care is given, solely active labor and delivery care. Now if only the state can find another $85 million in its already slim piggy bank. Had the legislators approved of the cash-out from the BP Settlement due to the 2010 Deepwater
Horizon oil spill, Medicaid would have received $70 million; therefore only $15 million short--mere pennies compared to the total $785 million. Unfortunately the BP plan died during the last few days of Session because of disagreements on how to rightfully and equally split up the BP monies.
Ban the Box Dies in Senate The â€œban the boxâ€? bill that was a cornerstone of the Democraticlegislators failed miserably. The bill originally applied to both the publicand private sector and prohibited an employer from asking arrest or convictioninformation on an application. It was substituted in committee to apply to thepublic sector only. As you may recall, the City of Birmingham has alreadypassed a Resolution banning the box for applicants for the City.
Leni's Law Now Legal With a vote in the Senate of 29-3, Leni's Law became eligible for the Governor's signature. On April 28, 2016, Governor Bentley signed HB 61 into law and assigned Act No. 2016-268. Rep. Mike Ball not only sponsored this legislation, but also advocated for the many children that came to the statehouse to lobby for their medical treatment. This legislation allows Alabamian's with seizure disorders and other debilitating medical disorders to use cannabidol, which is derived from cannabis (aka: marijuana). The legislation is named for Leni Young, an Alabama child with severe seizures that had to move to Oregon for access to cannabidiol. A bill to allow people with seizure disorders or other debilitating medical conditions to use a product that comes from the same plant as marijuana was passed by the Alabama Legislature today.
This Week in Alabama History | May 1-7 May 7, 1968 | Gov. Lurleen Burns Wallace, dies in office at age of 41 from cancer. Gov. Lurleen Wallace is most known for her support for mental health reform and the modernization of Partlow State Hospital for children. Additionally, Gov. Lurleen Wallace obtained a large funding increase for Alabama state parks. Lake Lurleen in central Alabama is named in her memory. Lurleen Burns Wallace may not have been the most important governor of the state, but she may well have been its most loved.
Bill Limiting Municipalities Use of Third-Party CollectingFirms Passes The House passed SB 335 on Tuesday, an updated version of the Alabama Taxpayers'Bill of Rights and Uniform Revenue Procedures Act. This bill restricts aggressivethird-party auditing/collecting firms from poorly treating businesses whencollecting local sales and use taxes. It also protects businesses from becomingoverwhelmed by the audit process. Additionally, the legislation adds requirements and disclosures which have to be made by third-party auditing/collecting firms if contracted by a municipality. Specialized requirements include: confidentiality requirements, requiring the taxing authority to use anindependent hearing and appeals officer and requiring a public official oremployee of the local government to sign the final assessment.
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Final Issue of 2016 Regular Legislative Session