2023 Legislative Session Preview From Public Policy Chair Senia Johnson
March 7, 2023
Regular Session and a Special Session
The 2023 Regular Session of the Alabama Legislature began today and, under state law, can last up to 105 calendar days, or until June 20th. Leadership in both houses has indicated that the legislature will adjourn the regular session today and be called into a two-week special session. Similar to what occurred in 2019 and 2022, the legislature plans to take up a specific issue in special session, with this year’s main issue being the appropriation of over $1 billion in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. When the regular session resumes, several key issues remain. Here are several of the major issues we expect this session.
A New Term – Many New Faces
This year marks the first year in a new quadrennium - the term used for the four-year cycles of the legislature. The different years of a quadrennium impact the date that year’s session begins and indicates other items of note. For example, the first year of a quadrennium, like this year, follows an election year, resulting in varying numbers of new legislators. For the 2023 session, we have quite a large number, with 37 new faces. New faces often mean a large number of bills filed with both fresh ideas and the resurfacing of old ideas.
In addition, we have new leadership in the House of Representatives. Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) was elected by House members to be Speaker, the top official in the House, and Rep. Chris Pringle (R-Mobile) was elected Speaker Pro Tem. Senate leadership remains the same with Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth as President by virtue of his office, Sen. Greg Reed (R-Jasper) President Pro Tem., Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville) Majority Leader, and Sen. Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) Minority Leader.
New leadership in the House has already resulted in changes to the rules on floor debates and timelines for adding bills to committee agendas, among other things.
Special Session - ARPA Round 2
As mentioned above, a special session is likely to be called today for the appropriation of the second bucket of ARPA funds. Passed by the U.S. Congress in 2021, ARPA appropriated over $1.9 trillion in stimulus dollars. The state and local governments received a share of these funds, with the state receiving approximately $2.2 billion in 2022, half of which remains unallocated. While an appropriation bill has not been released, legislative leaders have said broadband, water and sewer infrastructure, and education are priorities. This is one-time money for the state, and limitations on what the money can go toward are increased for this round. Several legislators have stated the importance of spending these funds judiciously with these issues in mind.
Economic development will play a very large role in this year’s session. The state’s key economic incentives are up for renewal and leaders in the legislature and executive branch have expressed interest in making changes to the incentives, including increasing the total amount of incentives available.
According to the Governor and legislative leaders, education issues will be a feature issue this year. For one, the education trust fund has a surplus over $2 billion that the Department of Education is eager to utilize. In pre-session budget talks, the Department asked for over $800 million more than last year’s budget for new teachers, higher pay, and many other items. Also, school choice has become a hot topic, and we will likely see several iterations of bills giving some amount to parents to choose where to send children to school.
With a surplus in the General Fund, legislators on both sides of the aisle have expressed a desire to give back. This may take the form of a tax cut or rebate to Alabamians. The Democrats’ have announced their “Plan for Prosperity” agenda, with highlights being criminal justice reform, the elimination of sales taxes on groceries in some form, and the elimination of taxes on overtime pay. Governor Ivey will announce her priorities in this evenings “State of the State” address, and Republicans in the legislature have not announced an agenda. Another possible topic includes a lottery bill or gambling bill.
One of the most vital components to REALTOR® advocacy is a good defense to defeat bad legislation harmful to our members and their businesses. As typical, we anticipate bills on various topics against the interests of our members or private property rights that we will seek to amend or defeat. We will also support bills on several issues that are important to our members, so stay tuned for more information as those bills are filed.
You can stay up-to-date on the 2023 Alabama Legislative Session with Capitol News & Notes, published in our weekly newsletter, Real Estate Alabama, and also found on our website under the public policy tab here.
We look forward to seeing everyone next week at REALTOR® Day!