Highlights from Week 12 of the Legislative Session
April 3, 2018
The Alabama Legislature adjourned sine die last Thursday. The House and Senate worked smoothly this session until last week when some controversial bills delayed action in both houses. Expectations were that the Legislature would work Tuesday and Wednesday and then adjourn, but a racial profiling bill, SB 84, and an economic development bill, HB 317, caused delays in both houses. On Thursday, the Senate convened early, passed HB 317 and then adjourned sine die. The House took up HB 317 to concur with the Senate changes, and a debate ensued. The House passed HB 317 after two hours of debate and adjourned sine die on Thursday afternoon. Let’s take a look at the highlights from week 12.
Governor Ivey Signs First-Time and Second-Chance Homebuyer Bill into Law
Last Wednesday, Governor Kay Ivey signed HB 248, the REALTOR®-backed First-Time and Second-Chance Homebuyer Savings Account Bill into law as Act No. 2018-467. The bill was sponsored by Representative Kyle South (R-Fayette).
REALTORS® advanced this program to help promote homeownership with potential first-time homebuyers in Alabama. The First-Time Homebuyers Savings Account (FHSA) program provides for a savings account for persons who have never owned a home or those that are re-entering the housing market, if they have not owned a home within 10 years. The savings from the account can be used to pay for a down payment and/or closing costs for a single-family dwelling. Deposits and earnings cannot exceed $50,000, and qualified expenditures must be made within five years of opening the account. These savings accounts will allow more Alabamians to experience the American dream of homeownership. For more information about the FHSA program, click here.
Governor Signs Education Budget
Last Tuesday, the House concurred with Conference Committee changes to the Education Trust Fund Budget (ETF), HB 175, sponsored by Representative Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa). Governor Ivey signed HB 175 into law on Monday of this week.
The $6.63 billion Education Budget for fiscal year 2019 is the largest since 2008. The budget also provides education employees with a 2.5 percent pay increase.
Teacher Bonus Bill Passes
Last Wednesday, the Senate gave final passage to a bill that provides a one-time bonus for the state’s retired educators.
SB 21, sponsored by Senator Gerald Dial (R-Lineville), gives a one-time lump-sum bonus that equals $1 per month for each year served. For example, if a retired teacher worked for 25 years, or 300 months, the total lump-sum bonus would be $300.
Retired teachers have not had a bonus since 2008. The bonus is expected to cost the state about $24.7 million from the ETF.
The bill now goes to the Governor for her signature.
Governor Ivey Signs Broadband Bill
A bill designed to encourage broadband infrastructure growth into Alabama’s rural areas was signed into law as Act No. 2018-395 by Governor Ivey last Wednesday.
The Alabama Broadband Accessibility Act, sponsored by Senator Clay Scofield (R-Arab), encourages private investment in broadband infrastructure in unserved, rural areas. The Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund would be administered through the Alabama Department of Economic Affairs (ADECA) and would rely on appropriations from the legislature or from federal or state grants.
Alabama may also get assistance through a broadband pilot program, which provides grants and loans from the federal government. Last week, Congress included a $600 million Broadband Pilot Program in the omnibus spending bill, which will enable applicants to finance projects that provide broadband to eligible rural and tribal areas with loans and grants.
Alabama REALTORS® supported SB 149, the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Act, because access to broadband internet is an important issue to consumers in rural housing across Alabama. Increasing access to broadband internet in rural and underserved areas of the state will increase opportunities for growth, homeownership and economic development.
Picture courtesy of the governor’s office, from left to right: ADECA Director Ken Boswell, Representative Donnie Chesteen, Governor Kay Ivey, and Senator Clay Scofield.
Economic Development Bill Passes
Last Thursday, HB 317, sponsored by Representative Ken Johnson (R-Moulton), received final passage after the House concurred with changes made to the bill by the Senate. The bill, known as The Alabama Jobs Enhancement Act, would exempt economic development professionals from registering as lobbyists.
Proponents of the bill contend that mandating economic development professionals to register as lobbyists would put a strain on businesses who want to locate to Alabama. Opponents argued that HB 317 would weaken the ethics laws that are already in place.
HB 317 now goes to Governor Ivey’s office for her signature.
Since a special session is unlikely, the 2018 Legislative Session will be the last session of the quadrennium. All constitutional officers and legislative seats are up for election this year. Legislators will now return home to their districts and begin campaigning for the June 5 primaries.
The 2019 Regular Session will begin on the first Tuesday in March.
Be on the lookout for the 2018 Alabama REALTORS® End of Session Legislative Report.