Capitol News & Notes: Week Thirteen
May 11, 2021
Last week, the Legislature met for its last full week with two legislative days on Tuesday and Thursday and Wednesday as a committee day. Most of the focus last week was on several big items, including medical marijuana and comprehensive gaming legislation, which eventually stalled in the final hours of the legislative day on Thursday. The Legislature has now completed 29 of 30 possible session days. Throughout the session, the House has introduced 648 bills, and the Senate has introduced 405 bills.
Bills of Interest
Historic Tax Credit Bill Heading to Gov. Kay Ivey - HB281, sponsored by Rep. Victor Gaston (R-Mobile), would provide an early renewal for the widely used Alabama Historic Tax Credit. HB 281 renews the Historic Tax Credit for five more years through 2027, clarifies that the tax credit is refundable for entities receiving the tax credit by transfer or assignment, and restricts the tax credit to projects with commercial or business purposes for tax years 2023 through 2027. In early March, the bill passed the House. On Tuesday, the bill was considered by the Senate, and an amendment was adopted by Sen. Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville). The amendment made several clarifications, including that no applications can be received after the total $100 million in tax credits is reserved and that mixed use of residential and commercial is allowed. The Senate voted to pass the bill as amended with a 31-0 vote, and on Thursday, the House voted to concur. The bill now heads to Gov. Ivey.
Broadband Access Closer to Reality - SB215, sponsored by Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston), is also known as the Connect Alabama Act. The bill aims to provide broadband expansion across Alabama. It 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. Over two weeks ago, the House considered the bill as substituted and voted to pass it unanimously. It was carried in the House by Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville). It moved to the Senate, where it was placed in conference committee. After it came out of committee, both bodies voted unanimously to pass it again, and the bill now moves to Gov. Ivey. Due to the stalled gambling legislation, the only incoming funding is from the American Rescue Act; however, legislators expect that more funding will come from the federal level due to the continued push and interest for broadband access.
Medical Marijuana Passes Legislature - SB46, sponsored by Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence) and carried in the House by Rep. Mike Ball (R-Madison), has certainly been a hot issue this session. The bill would allow medical marijuana for certain conditions, including cancer, chronic pain, depression, and terminal illnesses, among others. Doctors must write a prescription for medical marijuana, and patients would be required to have a medical cannabis card. The bill would not allow recreational use. In February, the bill was approved by the Senate, but it reached an arduous process in the House. The bill had to make it through two committees, the House Judiciary Committee, and the House Health Committee, instead of the normal one committee per body process. Last Tuesday, the House debated the bill for nearly 10 hours before adjourning due to the end of the legislative day at midnight. Through the committee and floor process, many amendments were introduced that were either voted down or adopted. After four more hours of debate on Thursday, the bill was finally up for a vote and passed the House with a 68-34 vote. Due to the amendments, the bill had to go back to the Senate for concurrence. On Thursday night, the Senate voted 30 to 9 to concur with the changes made by the House, and the bill now heads to Gov. Ivey.
Daylight Savings Time Year-Round - SB388, sponsored by Sen. Steve Livingston (R-Scottsboro), would allow Alabama to adopt daylight savings time permanently if the federal government approves the measure. The rationale is that more daylight in the afternoon will stimulate economic growth and improve the health of Alabama residents. In late April, the Senate voted unanimously to pass the bill, and on Thursday, the bill passed the House with a 93-1 vote. The bill now moves to Gov. Ivey.
A Look Ahead
There is one legislative day remaining. The Legislature plans to come back on Monday, May 17 for its final day before adjourning sine die. The House plans to reconvene at 10 a.m., and the Senate will reconvene at 11 a.m. when they arrive on May 17.