Highlights from Week 6 of the Legislative Session and a Look at What’s Ahead for Week 7
February 19, 2018
Last Tuesday, both houses of the Alabama Legislature gaveled in at 2 pm and worked in a bi-partisan fashion until adjourning at 6 pm. Committee meetings were held on Wednesday. Both the Education Budget and the General Fund budget are now moving. Last Thursday, the Senate quickly passed a number of House bills regarding veterans while the House democrats filibustered Jefferson County local legislation for most of the afternoon. The House continued working until 10:55 pm Thursday night. Here’s an update from last week and a look at what to expect this week.
Legislature Passes Uber/Lyft Bill
The Legislature has passed a bill to set up statewide regulations for ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft. HB 190, sponsored by Rep. David Faulkner (R-Homewood) and Sen. Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro), will require transportation network companies (TNC’s), such as Uber and Lyft, to obtain a permit from the Public Service Commission to operate throughout the State of Alabama.
Ride-sharing companies have operated in some Alabama cities under city regulations. Both Uber and Lyft have advocated for statewide regulations and said uniform rules were needed to help the services expand statewide.
HB 190 would require a TNC to collect a local assessment fee for each trip and remit it to the Public Service Commission. The Commission would retain half of the fee, and the other half would go the cities and counties, allocated based on where rides originate.
City regulations that are now in effect would be phased out under the bill. Cities and counties would not be allowed to impose a business license requirement or tax on the companies.
HB 190 travels to Governor Ivey’s desk for her signature.
House Veterans Bills Pass Senate
Last Thursday, three bills from the House Republican legislative agenda, “Flag, Family, and Country,” passed the Senate. Rep. Dickie Drake (R-Leeds), a veteran, sponsored two of the bills. HB 58 will provide free admission to all of Alabama’s state parks to all active and retired military personnel. Another bill sponsored by Rep. Drake, HB 88, provides preferred vendor status to veteran-owned businesses that bid on government projects. Lastly, HB 83, sponsored by Representative Connie Rowe (R–Jasper), would raise the tax credit for businesses that hire unemployed veterans from $1,000 to $2,000 as well as extend the credit to businesses that hire combat veterans.
General Fund Budget Passes Senate Committee
Last Wednesday, SB 178 (The General Fund Budget), sponsored by Sen. Trip Pittman (R-Montrose), passed out of the Finance & Taxation, General Fund Committee.
The General Fund funds all non-education agencies and programs, such as Medicaid, the Department of Corrections, and the Department of Mental Health. For fiscal year 2019, the General Fund is healthier than in years past and has $159 million additional dollars to appropriate over last year.
SB 178 would increase the appropriation for the Department of Corrections by $50 million. The DOC requested a large increase to improve mental health care for inmates brought on by a court ruling last year holding that state prisons did not provide adequate mental and physical resources to inmates.
The Department of Mental Health received a budget increase of $9 million to continue working with those with mental illness and substance use disorders, and an emphasis on treating those with autism.
SB 178 now moves to the Senate floor for full debate.
The Education Trust Fund Budget Passes the House and Moves to Senate
Last Tuesday, HB175 sponsored by Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa), passed off the House floor with a unanimous vote of 102-0. The Education Trust Fund Budget (ETF) is the largest education budget in 10 years.
Rep. Poole presented the $6.6 billion budget to the House members. Legislators asked questions to get a better understanding of the proposed appropriations.
HB 175 as passed in the House would provide the following:
- Increased funding for Pre-K classrooms by $20 million; increased the Alabama Reading Initiative by $5 million
- Increased money for technology
- More money for school nurses
- An increase in money for more national board certified teachers
- Another $1.3 million for career tech
- $90 million for a 2.5 percent education pay raise
- A $16 million increase for community college to improve work force development
- An additional $37 million for colleges and universities
HB 175 will now travel to the Senate Finance & Taxation, Education Committee for consideration.
What to Expect This Week
The budgets will be the focus of this week. It is required by law that the Alabama Legislature pass balanced budgets each year, and once they start moving, all eyes are on their passage. Expect the General Fund Budget to be on the Senate floor this week while the Education Trust Fund will be taken up in the Senate Finance & Taxation, Education Committee.