Capitol News & Notes: Week Ten
April 19, 2021
Last week, the Legislature met for two legislative days on Tuesday and Thursday with Wednesday as a committee day. They have now completed 23 of 30 possible session days. As of today, April 20, the House has introduced 633 bills, and the Senate has introduced 394 bills.
Bills of Interest
Comprehensive Gaming Bill Passed Senate - Last Tuesday, the Senate approved a comprehensive gaming bill. SB319, sponsored by Sen. Jim McClendon (R-Springville), was originally a standalone lottery bill, but the bill was substituted to also include casino gaming and sports wagering. Casino gaming sites will include Jefferson County, Mobile County, Macon County, Greene County, Houston County, and Jackson or Dekalb County. Revenue from gaming will go towards education, broadband accessibility, health care, and infrastructure, among other items. Importantly, the enabling legislation has a prohibition on elected officials accepting political contributions from gambling interests. The bill passed the Senate with a 23-9 vote and now moves to the House for consideration.
Boater Safety Bill Receives Favorable Report - HB238, sponsored by Rep. Ginny Shaver (R-Leesburg), aims to increase boating safety and protect property owners on bodies of water. The bill provides much-needed protection by setting speeds for any watercraft greater than 300 feet wide at idle within 100 feet and watercraft less than 300 feet wide within 50 feet of various public-use locations and properties, such as docks, swimmers, restaurants, and shorelines, among others. After having a public hearing several weeks prior, the bill was voted on Wednesday by the House Judiciary Committee and received a favorable report. It will now move to House for a vote.
Broadband Expansion Bill Has Public Hearing - SB215, sponsored by Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston), is also known as the Broadband Expansion Bill. The bill would create a state entity, the Alabama Digital Expansion Authority, to oversee the expansion of broadband services throughout the state and would allow the Legislature to appropriate direct funding the state entity. There will also be a larger Connect Alabama Advisory Board that will issue recommendations to the authority and the Alabama Digital Expansion Finance Corporation that will be able to issue bonds to finance certain projects. This bill will hopefully improve broadband connectivity in Alabama, which is desperately needed as the state ranks 47th overall. In March, the bill passed the Senate, and on Thursday, it came up for a public hearing in front of the House Urban and Rural Development Committee. The committee is expected to vote on the bill next week.
Medical Marijuana Bill Passes Second House Committee - SB46, sponsored by Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence), would legalize medical marijuana for persons with qualifying medical conditions. After receiving a favorable report from the House Judiciary Committee two weeks ago, the House Health Committee held a public hearing on the bill on Wednesday, and after a few amendments were adopted, the bill as amended received a favorable report on Thursday. It will now move to the House for a vote, and if passed, the Senate will have to vote again to concur with the amendments.
A Look Ahead
It is expected that the Legislature will meet two days a week for the next three weeks with Wednesday as a committee day and come back on May 17 for the final legislative day.