Capitol News & Notes: Week Two
February 16, 2021
Last week, the Legislature used another three legislative days in addition to moving many bills through committee. As of today, Tuesday, February 16, the House has introduced 413 bills, and the Senate has introduced 233 bills.
Rental Relief Assistance Bill
In a huge win for Alabama’s tenants and housing providers, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed HB231 appropriating over $263 million in rental assistance funds. We greatly appreciate Governor Ivey, the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark) and Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Atmore), as well as House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Huntsville), Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed (R-Jasper), and members of the Legislature for their diligent work in making this bill a priority. To learn more about this bill and the Alabama Emergency Rental Assistance program, see our prior article here.
State Priority Bills
The three priority bills mentioned last week - SB30, HB170, and HB192 - were all passed by the Legislature last week and signed by Governor Kay Ivey on Friday to become law.
- SB30, sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) and carried by Rep. David Faulkner (R-Mountain Brook) in the House, will provide liability protections to businesses, health care providers, and other entities against civil lawsuits related to COVID-19, if said entities have abided by public health guidelines. After passing through the Senate two weeks ago, the bill received a favorable report in the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday and passed the House on Thursday with an 86-4 vote.
- HB170, sponsored by Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville) and carried in the Senate by Sen. Dan Roberts (R-Mountain Brook), will exempt funds received from federal coronavirus aid from state income taxes, including any other aid the government approves in 2021. After quickly moving through the House the week before, the bill passed the Senate on Wednesday with a unanimous 27-0 vote.
- HB192, sponsored by Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa) and Sen. Reed, will extend and expand tax credits within the Growing Alabama Act and the Alabama Jobs Act until 2023. After passing the House two weeks ago, this bill also passed through the Senate on Wednesday with a unanimous 27-0 vote.
REALTOR®-Sponsored Homestead Exemption E-Filing Bill
HB344, sponsored by Rep. Faulkner and eight co-sponsors, will give county tax assessing officials the option of receiving claims for homestead exemptions electronically. This bill passed the House last year, but due to session ending abruptly because of COVID, it did not make its way through the Senate. On Wednesday, this bill received a favorable report from the House County & Municipal Government Committee, and it will be considered by the House next. Thank you, Rep. Faulkner, for your continued leadership and hard work on this important issue!
Lottery & Gambling Bill
Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston) introduced his comprehensive gaming bill, SB214, on Tuesday, February 9. The bill will set up a statewide lottery, legalize gambling and sports betting at authorized locations, and allow Gov. Ivey to negotiate a compact with the Poarch Creek tribe. Sen. Marsh expects the funds from the lottery to be around $200 million, and the proceeds will go towards post-secondary scholarships. The bill limits casino-style gambling to five locations, including the Birmingham Race Course, the GreeneTrack in Greene County, the Mobile Greyhound Park, VictoryLand in Macon County, and the fifth site in either DeKalb or Jackson County, and authorizes Gov. Ivey to negotiate with the Poarch Creek tribe on gaming at their three existing casinos.
The gaming revenue would be split with 20% to a Gaming Trust Fund, 75% to the General Fund, and 5% going to the counties and municipalities where the casinos are located. The bill would create the “Alabama Gaming Commission” to regulate gambling, and importantly, gaming operators would be prohibited from making campaign contributions to candidates for the Legislature, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General’s office. On Wednesday, the Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee gave the bill a favorable report with a unanimous 11-0 vote. The bill was brought up in the Senate on Thursday, but it was not voted on so that legislators had an opportunity to thoroughly review and work on any possible amendments prior to meeting again. If the bill does pass through the Legislature, voters will have to approve the measure in a referendum.
Broadband Expansion Bill
SB215, also sponsored by Sen. Marsh, would create a state entity, the Alabama Digital Expansion Authority, to oversee the expansion of broadband services throughout the state. Currently, Alabama’s broadband expansion program is done only through ADECA grants, but this bill would allow the Legislature to appropriate direct funding to the state entity. If SB214 passes and is approved by Alabama voters, approximately 65% of the gambling revenue from the General Fund would go towards broadband expansion. On Wednesday, the Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee gave the bill a favorable report with a unanimous 11-0 vote, and it was also discussed in the Senate on Thursday but ultimately was carried over.
A Look Ahead
The Legislature will take a break this week as a COVID-19 precaution and is expected to reconvene for its seventh legislative day on Tuesday, February 23.