This is a confidential and privileged communication. It is intended for the sole and exclusive use of members of the Alabama Restaurant & Hospitality Association and should not be disseminated to others outside of the organization.
February 15, 2021
From the Desk of Miller Development Group
Week in Review

Despite COVID, the legislature has taken up dozens of proposals and is on the fast track to pass many of the bills introduced this session. This could be in part due to the lack of access by lobbyists to point out the flaws in the legislation. Legislators in Alabama have very little staff, and the staff they have is more clerical and administrative in nature. That is why the ARHA team is moving fast and furious to counter efforts to push through bills not well thought out. To date, there have been more than 500 bills introduced in the House and the Senate and literally dozens of these bills have been heard in committees without the proper audio or access for lobbyists, and no access for testimony.
ARHA Applauds Swift Passage of COVID Immunity Bill and Alabama Taxpayer Stimulus Freedom Act  

ARHA joined the efforts of many business groups to encourage the swift passage of the immunity from liability and the legislation to prohibit tax on PPP or other federal funding. Both headed to the Governor for her signature last week. CEO and President Mindy Hanan praised the efforts of the legislature and echoed how much these bills impact the tourism, hotel and restaurant industries that were the hardest hit as a result of the virus. “We made our case before the Alabama Legislature and they responded to our concerns, and we are thankful for the passage of these two bills,” said Hanan. 
The Senate bill, sponsored by Senator Dan Roberts, R-Mountain Brook, exempts all the Covid-19 relief funds received from the government from state taxation. The legislation also makes some modifications to the state’s corporate tax code. “We are not going to tax any of the stimulus monies that came in for businesses, for individuals, for anyone,” Roberts said, adding that the bill will also help Alabama-based businesses to compete on a global scale. “Our Alabama companies have been at a competitive disadvantage,” Roberts said. “This legislation allows Alabama companies to compete at the same level. We’re trying to help our businesses be as competitive as possible and give them every advantage we can to succeed.” Senate Pro Tem Greg Reed, R-Jasper, agreed saying “COVID-19 relief funds were intended to help those struggling to weather the storm of the pandemic, and it is important that these funds are not taxed by the state so that as much assistance as possible makes it into the pockets of Alabamians.”
The House on Thursday gave final approval to a bill that limits lawsuits related to the COVID outbreak, finishing a list of priority bills for leadership for the first part of the legislative session. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, passed the House 86 to 4. The measure limits lawsuits against "businesses, health care providers, schools, governments, cultural institutions and their officers or employees" over claims related to the outbreak.  
Rep. David Faulkner, R-Mountain Brook, who handled the bill in the House said it would allow entities that have followed health care guidelines in good faith to "move forward in a responsible manner. As long as they are reasonably attempting to comply with those orders, they would be protected from a lawsuit under this bill," he said. The immunity provisions would be in effect until the end of the year or for a year after the current emergency orders related to COVID-19 expire. The bill does not affect worker compensation claims.
The bill does not extend immunity to "wanton, reckless, willful or intentional conduct." In a hearing on Wednesday, Faulkner said the protections would extend to negligence. A handful of Democrats criticized the measure, saying that the protections could allow bad actors to avoid consequences. Rep. Napoleon Bracy, D-Prichard, said he had family members who had contracted COVID-19 due to people disregarding mask orders. "I feel like when you give this level of blanket immunity it protects the people who are doing the right thing like us, but it also protects people who are doing the wrong thing," he said.
Economic Development Bill Received Final Passage this Week

Legislation that renews and expands some financial incentives used for business recruiting passed the Senate on Wednesday. The approval of the bill came after both the House and Senate had moments of silence for the nearly 9,000 Alabamians who have died from coronavirus since last March. The bill passed unanimously and reauthorizes two of Alabama’s statewide economic development programs, the Jobs Act and the Growing Alabama Act. Both had expired in 2020. Gov. Ivey praised the passage saying “as one of the first bills to pass this session, this legislation sends a strong message that Senator Greg Reed’s priority as the new Pro Tem is to move Alabama forward.” 
“Supporting job growth and industrial development is the number one way that we can create a higher quality of life for Alabamians and allow our state to meet its full potential,” said Reed, a Republican from Jasper who sponsored the Senate bill. “Our neighboring states, as well as states across our country, are constantly looking for ways to recruit and attract economic investment opportunities. This bill gives Alabama the ability to be competitive in that process.” The Senate’s approval came a week after the House overwhelmingly gave its okay in a 94-1 vote to the bill Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, sponsored.
“These economic development incentives that are being renewed and sharpened have proven to be essential tools in our toolbox when it comes to recruiting and expanding industry across Alabama,” Poole said. “And because these incentives are performance based in terms of requiring the creation of new jobs and attracting new investment, our citizens can be assured that these incentives are a sound investment in Alabama’s economy and the future prosperity of our citizens.”
Bill to Watch -- Omnibus Gaming Bill

Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, introduced an omnibus gaming bill Tuesday and moved it quickly out of the Senate Tourism Committee on Wednesday. On Thursday, the bill was brought to the floor for discussion purposes only. A vote is slated in the Senate after next week’s scheduled break.
The bill is a constitutional amendment that would have to be approved by a vote of the people and would create a state lottery to primarily benefit education. It would allow casinos to be established at the state’s four pari-mutuel tracks in Mobile, Eutaw, Shorter, and Birmingham. It would also allow Gov. Kay Ivey to negotiate with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians to develop a compact allowing the tribe to establish a casino on non-tribal land in northeast Alabama – most likely in DeKalb or Jackson counties. It would also allow sports betting at the existing tracks and on electronic devices.
The bill would tax at 20% operations at the tracks and at any new tribal casino on non-tribal land. The tracks are allowed to lease the rights to operate, with the costs set in the legislation. The leases for Eutaw and Mobile would cost $5 million for 10-year leases. The lease for Shorter would cost $50 million for 25 years. The lease for Birmingham would cost $100 million for 30 years. All of the leases would be paid over the course of 10 years. Operators of the tracks and tribal officials have been meeting privately over the course the past year to try to find a path forward for each group to operate and would provide for a lottery that has been growing in popularity across the state.
Lottery proceeds would go to a college scholarship program tied to workforce needs – generally, two-year schools and other four-year programs in areas identified as in need. Casino and sports betting proceeds will primarily go to the General Fund. Once in the General Fund, 65 percent will go towards broadband expansion, 25 percent for rural health care, and 10 percent for mental health services. There appears to be momentum in the Senate for passing the bill.
Budget Update $$$
Despite the economic fallout from COVID, the state’s two budgets are on reasonably good footing at the moment. In a recent presentation, the Legislative Services Agency reported tax collections for the General Fund are up about 7% over the previous year. The picture for the Education Trust Fund won’t come into focus until later in July because a major source of funds for Alabama schools is income tax. Alabama’s governor, like the federal government, pushed back the tax filing deadline until July 15th.
“I won’t say I was surprised,” said Republican Rep. Steve Clouse, who chairs the House General Fund budget committee. “We’ve gotten ourselves in better shape than most states for a couple of reasons.”
Robust tax collections before the COVID-19 shutdown helped. Since then, a jump in the simplified sellers use tax, essentially an online sales tax, made up for losses in oil and gas, lodging and other taxes. For the education budget, legislation passed in the wake of the Great Recession caps how much lawmakers can appropriate to schools, with any extra going to a reserve fund. Those reserves could be used to plug shortfalls in the education budget.
There was discussion of the possibility of a special session later this year to make adjustments to the budgets, but Clouse did not think that will be necessary. He believed the budgets will hold until February, when the legislature is scheduled to return for the next regular session.
Alabama could still feel budget pressure, but in ways that predate the pandemic. The state is under a federal court order to increase staffing in its overcrowded and violent prisons. “We’ve got a gun to our head by the federal judge,” Clouse said. “There’s only one way you’re going to solve the prison problem and that’s with money.” Prolonged unemployment could increase costs to Medicaid, which the state has struggled to fund in the past.
Health Scores on Drive-thrus Problematic

Many ARHA members have expressed concerns over the bill that has surfaced again this year that requires health scores to be posted on a drive-thru. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Estes who also sponsored the same bill in 2020. ARHA will continue to dialogue with the bill sponsor and members of the legislature to point out some of the pitfalls of the bill including the administrative burden to both the health department and the restaurant owner.
AHRA Pets on the Patio Priority Bill Advances

We are pleased to report that the bill to give restaurants the option to have pets on the patio was given a thumbs up in committee. ARHA will continue to advance this important option for restaurants especially in the COVID times that we find ourselves dealing with.
A special thanks to Rep. Steve McMillan and the Baldwin and Mobile area members who have helped to advance this much needed tool in the ARHA member toolbox.
ARHA Calls Public Hearing on Bill to Require a Credit for Incorrect Change

A legislative proposal that would be a nightmare for ARHA members has been flagged by the CEO Mindy Hanan. She is working closely with NFIB to alert members of the legislature of the clear burden of complying with this legislation. It requires businesses to accept cash and if change is not available to offer a voucher credit for the remaining amount. It is sponsored by Rep. Debbie Woods.
Alcohol-Related Bills
Direct Wine Shipment On the Move Again This Year
Direct shipment of wine to an Alabama resident has been monitored by ARHA for several years. The Senate Tourism Committee unanimously approved SB 138 by Sen. Jabo Waggoner this past week. There is a competing bill, SB 146 sponsored by Sen. Bobby Singleton. Waggoner told the committee that he hopes to find common ground to move one bill on direct wine shipment to the floor.

The Waggoner version of direct wine shipment creates a direct wine shipper license that would allow wineries to ship wine directly to Alabama consumers if the winery produces less than 50,000 gallons of wine each year and has a federal basic wine manufacturing permit. The cost of the license fee would be $250 for both in-state and out-of-state licensed wine manufacturers. The bill also would allow a common carrier to ship wine on behalf of the direct wine shipper licensee. Each winery or manufacturer could ship up to 12, nine-liter cases of wine annually per household. 
ARHA-Backed Home Delivery of Sealed Beer, Wine and Liquor Clears Senate
The bills that permit restaurants and other delivery services to deliver not only food, but also a limited amount of alcohol, wine and beer to their customers is gaining traction in the legislature this year. Just days into the session, both the House and Senate versions have cleared committees. And on Thursday, Feb. 11, the Senate approved SB 126 sponsored by Sen. Jabo Waggoner, that creates a delivery service license to allow for the delivery of alcohol. It was amended to mirror the House version, HB 229 by Rep. Gil Isbell, which was approved earlier by the House Judiciary Committee. In addition to the language outlined below, the amended versions of the bill prohibit delivery to a location that in excess of 75 miles from the retail business that originated the delivery. The amendment also decreased the renewal license from $1,00.00 to $250.00 dollars. Many lawmakers including Sen. Tom Whatley said that the amended lower fee will allow a smaller restaurant or business to better compete with a larger one.

As reported, the bills create a delivery service license that permits the transportation and delivery of the equivalent of up to 120, 12-ounce containers of beer; up to 288 ounces of draft beer; up to 12, 750 milliliter bottles of wine (9,000 milliliters); and up to 9,000 milliliters of spirits, (sold by off-premises licensees) and up to 375 milliliters of spirits (sold by restaurant licensees) within a 24-hour period to individuals for personal use.

Besides traditional delivery services, off-premise alcohol sales licensees and those with an on-premise restaurant retail liquor license are eligible to apply for a delivery service license. Sealed alcohol from on-premise restaurants must be delivered with meals, under these bills. Businesses granted a delivery service license will be required to purchase equipment to scan customer IDs at the point of delivery in order to verify the age of the buyer that is set at 21 years of age or older.

Entertainment Districts for Birmingham Gets Favorable Nod
SB 88 by Sen. Rodger Smitherman would authorize 15 entertainment districts in the city of Birmingham—triple the number of existing districts. The bill is headed to the Senate for consideration, having passed the Tourism Committee on Wednesday.
Wine Festivals Coming Soon
The Senate Tourism Committee was busy last week and also unanimously approved SB 167 by Sen. Jones of Gadsden on Wednesday. The bill would allow wine tastings and sales at authorized wine festivals. It limits the festivals to 5 days and each customer may purchase only one case of wine per festival for consumption off-premise.

Business Continuity Protection – HB 103 – By Representative Kiel- This bill would provide that, during a state of emergency involving a pandemic, epidemic, bioterrorism event, or the appearance of a novel or previously controlled or eradicated infectious disease or biological toxin, any business, church, mosque, synagogue, or other bona fide religious institution may continue or resume those business or religious operations if the business or religious entity complies with any applicable emergency order, rule, or regulation issued by the Governor, a state department or agency, or governing body which authorizes other business entities to operate under certain safety precautions.

State Health Officer Must Approve Local Health Departments Actions – HB 168 By Representative Garrett- Under existing law, a county health officer may issue an order or directive meant to control or abate a pandemic or outbreak of a disease during a public health state of emergency. This bill would prohibit a county health officer, during a state of emergency, from issuing an order or directive that relates to the control of a pandemic or outbreak of a disease unless the State Health Officer provides written approval of the order or directive.

Employee Vaccine Status -- HB 214 By Representative C. Brown- This bill prohibits employers from taking adverse action against employees or prospective employees based on immunization status and prohibits ticket issuers from denying entry to entertainment events based on immunization status. It further creates a cause of action against employers and provides for injunctive relief, back pay and punitive damages.

State of Emergency – HB 241 By Representative Holmes- This bill would provide that a state of emergency terminates after 14 days and may be extended only by joint resolution of the Legislature or, if the Legislature is not in session, by joint proclamation of the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Additionally, any order or directive issued by the State Health Officer to control, prevent, or minimize an outbreak of any disease or pandemic will not take effect unless and until the order or directive is approved by the Governor and a copy of the approved order or directive is filed in the Office of the Secretary of State, at which time the order or directive has the full force and effect of law.

Contact Tracing Privacy Protections – SB 1 by Senator Orr- This bill authorizes the State Health Officer or any county health officer to employ or engage contact tracers to for COVID-19; provides privacy protections for infected individuals and others whose personal information is collected; provides that cooperation in contact tracing process is voluntary, and any individual who refuses or fails to cooperate in contact tracing is immune from liability arising from that refusal; provides that this law would be automatically repealed on May 1, 2022.

Coronavirus Immunity Bill – SB 30 by Senator Orr- This bill would provide civil immunity for business entities, health care providers, educational entities, churches, governmental entities, and cultural institutions operating in this state, as well as individuals associated with these entities, from certain damages claimed by individuals who allege that they contracted or were exposed to Coronavirus, during a declared state of emergency.

Covid-19 Tax Related Bills

While a plethora of bills relating to the tax treatment of the various state and federal relief programs has been introduced, the following to bills are the bills that will most likely be the vehicle through which this will occur.

Covid-19 Relief Funds Tax Treatment – HB 170 – By Representative Garrett - This bill would provide for an exclusion from Alabama income taxation for any federal tax credits, advance refunds, Small Business Administration subsidy payments, Emergency EIDL grants, Targeted EIDL advances, student loan payments, or qualified disaster relief payments, resulting from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, Taxpayer Certainty; provide an income tax exemption for any amounts received from the Coronavirus Relief Fund, and provide for an exclusion from Alabama income taxation small business loans forgiven under the Paycheck Protection Program established by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The bill also addresses apportionment of income for multi-state corporations; decouples Alabama from the Global Intangible Low Tax Income; changes how a corporation limits its business interest expense deduction; and provides that an Electing Pass-Through Entity shall be taxed at the entity level instead of its owners, members, partners, or shareholders.

General Business

Discrimination – HB 87 – By Representative Hollis- This bill would make it unlawful for a school board, public accommodation, employer, employment agency, or labor organization to discriminate based upon race, religion, sex, age, disability, or national origin and would create a state cause of action against an employer who does so.

Waiver of Fee Certificate of Existence – HB 165 – By Representative Ingram - If a state of emergency declared in this or any other state or by the federal government renders substantial compliance with this article impossible or unreasonable, the Secretary of State may waive the Certificate of Existence fee.

Pregnancy Discrimination - HB 352 -- By Representative Rafferty- This bill would create the Alabama Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations for employees related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions unless the accommodation would cause an undue hardship on the employer.

Employee Determination Specified -- HB 408 -- By Representative Kitchens-- requires an employer to use specified guidelines in order to determine whether a worker is engaged in employment for purposes of employment benefits and tax liabilities.

Medical Marijuana – SB 46 By Senator Melson- This bill authorizes certain residents of this state diagnosed with a qualifying medical condition and designated caregivers to be registered and obtain a medical cannabis card, thereby authorizing the patient to use cannabis for medical use.

Accommodation for Employees Who are Breastfeeding – SB 100 By Senator Whatley- This bill would require employers to make reasonable efforts to provide breastfeeding employees with a time and place to express milk in private. Employers are not required to do so if it unreasonably disrupts operations. Breaks can be concurrent with any breaks already provided.

Provides for the creation and enforcement of non-disparagement obligations in contracts.

ARHA Bills of Interest

Cottage Foods Bill - HB 12 – by Representative Kiel– Under existing law provides that in-home cottage food production of baked goods, jams, jellies, candies, and dried herb and herb mixes are excluded from regulation by the State Department of Health and county health departments, as well as the requirement to have a food service permit. This bill would extend the protections granted to in-home cottage food production to include in-home producers of roasted coffees and dry gluten free baking mixes.

Mandatory Cash Acceptance – HB 28 – By Representative D. Wood- This bill would require all retail businesses to accept cash and bill would also require retail establishments experiencing a cash or coin shortage to provide store credit in the amount of any unavailable change due to a customer in lieu of exact change.

Health Department Score to Be Posted in Drive Thru Under Certain Conditions – HB 29 – By Representative Estes- Bill would require a food service9establishment using a drive-through window to post any earned food establishment inspection report score below the grade of 85 in a conspicuous place on its drive-through menu signs and to promptly update the score number on each drive-through menu sign upon the receipt of any new food establishment inspection report scores, unless the establishment earns a score of 85 or higher.

Sports Wagering – HB 161 By Representative Rogers- Bill would allow wagering on certain collegiate and professional sports or athletic events.

Dogs on the Patio – HB 235 – By Representative Steve McMillan- Allows restaurants to apply for a permit to allow their customers to have dogs in outdoor dining areas provided certain conditions are met.

Human Trafficking – HB 269 – By Representative Coleman-Evans- Raises the penalty for non-compliance with signage requirement and provides for enforcement and regulation.

Human Trafficking – HB 270 – By Representative Coleman-Evans- Revisions to the code section regarding human trafficking to enhance penalties, protect victims and assist the state in prosecuting traffickers.

Entertainment District – SB 62 – By Senator Elliott- Allows a class 8 municipality to create entertainment districts.

Entertainment District – SB 88 – By Senator Smitherman- The governing body of a Class 1 municipality may establish up to 15 entertainment districts within its corporate limits, each of which shall have not fewer than four licensees among which may hold a manufacturer's license that conducts tastings or samplings on the licensed premises, a restaurant retail liquor license, an on-premises alcoholic beverage license, or other retail liquor license in that area, and each district may not exceed one-half mile by one-half mile in area, but may be irregularly shaped.

Alcohol Delivery from Business to Customer- SB 126 -By Senator Waggoner- Bill provides for a delivery service license issued by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board that would allow the licensee to deliver sealed beer, wine, and spirits from certain licensed retail establishments directly to individuals in Alabama who are at least 21 years of age for their personal use. A restaurant retail liquor licensee, licensed to sell beer, wine, or spirits for on-premises consumption may apply for and be issued a delivery service license that authorizes the licensee to deliver, along with the purchase of a meal, beer, wine, or spirits from the retailer's premises.

Direct Shipment of Wine - SB138 – By Senator Waggoner- Creates permitting procedure to allow certain wine manufacturers to ship wine directly to consumers in state.

Direct Shipment of Wine – SB 146 – By Senator Singleton- This bill would allow a licensed wine manufacturer to obtain a wine direct shipper permit from the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to allow the permittee to ship limited quantities of table wine directly to Alabama residents who are at least21 years of age for their personal use. This bill would impose certain duties on an Alabama winery that ships wine directly to consumers, including the collection and remittance of certain taxes.

To follow the progress of these bills through the
The Alabama Legislature Reconvenes on February 23
The Senate will convene at 2:00 p.m. and
The House of Representatives at 1:00 p.m.
Learn About ARHA's New BCBS Health Care Plan
ARHA's latest member benefit is a new health care plan through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama.Through the power of membership, we are able to offer enhanced benefits at a discounted price. The program is available to all restaurants and hotels in the state of Alabama.

ARHACare is underwritten by Blue Cross and Blue Shield, so you know it provides the best possible provider network and benefit coverage available.
Are you interested in receiving a quote? Please click here to fill out the interest form and someone will get back to you. You can visit the ARHACare website for more info or watch the webinar recording that explains the plan in further detail. 
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