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2016, Week #1
First Week on Goat Hill 'Wages' with a 'Bang'
The first week of the session was more lackluster than usual due to the L Factor listed below but that did not deter the ARHA team from showing up.  We know that when no one is watching and when relationships are not being re-kindled and you don't show up, bad things happen.  Therefore, rest assured, whether it is hall talk among lobbyists or meetings with legislators, ARHA lobbyists take nothing for granted and if the session has convened we are there for you. But topping the list of bills in the hopper were those dealing with a state-wide minimum wage and less restrictions on citizens with guns.

House bills 70 and 71, by Rep. Darrio Melton are of particular interest to ARHA.  HB 70 creates a state minimum wage of $10.10 an hour by Jan. 1, 2018 in three steps.  Beginning Jan. 1, 2020, the state minimum wage would be mandated to increase every three years and would be based on the Consumer Price Index from the previous calendar year.   

The next bill would also increase the state minimum wage each year based upon a percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index in the previous calendar year with the base being the current federal minimum wage.  Both bills were assigned to the House State Government Committee.  As you know, Alabama currently has no state minimum wage but instead adopts the federal minimum wage.  

Among the firearm bills, Senator Allen's bill would allow owner to carry their pistols without a license on their own property, vehicle, home or business or on the property or in the vehicle of another owner with their consent.  

2016 Plagued with the L Factor
As the 2016 session begins the L factor is the backdrop for all that will be debated, passed and/or killed by the Alabama legislature.
Lottery:  After the report of money from Alabama citizens pouring into neighboring states for a chance to win the gigantic power ball jackpot, lottery bills have been introduced by both Democrats and Republicans.
Lack of funds in the General Fund budget: With many state agencies, especially Medicaid, requesting more money than last year, the state General Fund budget remains severely under-funded.  Just how and what lawmakers will do to avoid a total shutdown of essential services remains a wild card.  With most taxes off the table, it is anyone's guess how they can "fix" the ailing budget.
Litigation:  With either a trial or dismissal still looming for the Speaker of the House, many believe it is a distraction even though the House Republican platform is on the fast track with merely two days of meetings under its belt.  
Looming:  So the final L word is Looming since the above mentioned topics are far from reconciled.  Stay tuned....
Alcohol Study Commission Proposes 3 bills
The Alcohol Study Commission created in the 2015 session has proposed 3 bills from the work done by the committee. Two have been introduced thus far and one is said to be ready to be introduced soon. They are:

Retail Sales authorized from a distillery
SB 132 by Sen. Bobby Singleton and the House companion, HB 46 by Rep. Allen Boothe would allow a licensed distillery to make retail sales from its premises of up to 750 milliliters; ie., one standard bottle per customer per year for off-premise consumption only.  

Retail sales for small breweries and Brewpubs not yet in the hopper
The commission recommended the following but no bill has been introduced to date.  The recommendations would authorize small breweries and brewpubs producing not more than 60,000 barrels of beer annually to sell up to 288 ounces of draft or package beer to a consumer directly. That amount would be for off-premise consumption and is roughly a case of beer to a customer per day. The bill allows for packaging in any manner including bottles, cans or growlers.  Further, the recommendation  authorized the sale of 2 kegs per event to a charity event or function.

Wineries get Tasting Rooms
HB 83 by Rep. David Faulkner allows a licensed winery to obtain a permit to operate one additional tasting room outside its on-site tasting room.  
Senate Democratic Caucus Calls  Agenda Empowering Alabama Families/Both House and Senate Caucus Calls for Minimum Wage State-wide bill and "ban the box" Legislation

The Alabama Senate Democrats released their 2016 Agenda and dubbed it "Empowering Alabama Families." Sen. Priscilla Dunn of Bessemer, said she believes there should be more incentives "for everyday hard-working Alabamians."

A state-wide increase in Alabama's Minimum Wage tops their priorities both in the House and the Senate Democratic and Black Caucuses.  

In anticipation of these efforts along with the looming filibuster of a state-wide pre-emption bill, ARHA, along with the assistance of the National Restaurant Association wasted no time in attending fundraising events for the Black Caucus and the Democratic Caucus to begin dialogue on the top priority of a pre-emption bill to trump the minimum wage ordinance passed in Birmingham already this year.  

Other provisions is a combined casino and lottery bill that caucus members say should be linked together to create multiple job opportunities. Additionally, they want to close corporate tax loop-holes and make it easier for felons to obtain employment. 

The platform is comprised of the following:
  • A constitutional amendment to allow a lottery and casinos, with proceeds going into the Education Trust Fund and General Fund. 
  • The creation of a bill for state minimum wage of $10 sponsored by Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, Birmingham.
  • Bans the use of temporary workers for more than 5 percent by companies that receive incentives or other funds from the Alabama Department of Commerce, by Sen. Bobby Singleton, Greensboro. 
  • Requiring combined income reporting from out-of-state companies doing business in Alabama, a bill by Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison.
  • A "ban the box"  to restrict companies from requiring the disclosure of criminal backgrounds on a job application; disclosure required only after job offer. 
  • Repeal pf Alabama's photo voter ID law by Sen. Hank Sanders
  • A constitutional amendment by  to raise property taxes by 5 mills, or $15 for every $50,000 of property owned, sponsored by Sen. Vivian Figures, Mobile.
  • Requiring the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, sponsored by Sen. Billy Beasley, Clio.
House Republicans Release Agenda
Includes Hot Button Issues and Tax Incentives

The House Republican Agenda released last week included several national hot button issues. They are:
  • Opposition to any Obama administrations effort to relocate masses of Syrian or other Middle Eastern refugees to our state.
  • The pledge to assist the state's federal delegation in "overturning Barack Obama's unconstitutional executive orders attacking our Second Amendment rights to own firearms."
  • A state bill banning the sales of bodily remains of unborn infants, already against federal law.
Other provisions on the agenda include: 

Zero-based budgeting that requires state agencies to account for all spending and help identify ineffective programs.
Pension reform  which ensures the long-term soundness of the Retirement Systems of Alabama while protecting the current level of benefits earned by current employees and retirees.
Alabama Taxpayer Advocate Act - under current law, the taxpayer advocate must be a Department of Revenue employee selected by the revenue commissioner. The bill would change that to have the governor appoint the advocate from a pool of candidates selected by a committee of government officials and business professionals. The advocate's role and duties would expand.
Small business job creation tax credit  provides a $1,500 income tax credit for every new, qualified employee hired by a small business. It would apply to businesses that have 75 or fewer employees and retained the new hires at least a year.
Right to work  would enshrine in the state Constitution Alabama's status as a right-to-work state, established in legislation passed almost 60 years ago. The bill is in response to recent successful labor organization efforts, including Volkswagen in Tennessee and Golden Dragon in Wilcox County.
School security  creates a task force of education, law enforcement and emergency management leaders to review laws and protocols on student safety and security in K-12 schools and college and universities and make recommendations to the Legislature.

Governor Bentley's 2016 State of the State

Today we launch Alabama's Great State 2019 Plan, our strategic three year course of action.
Alabama's Great State 2019 Plan sets its sights on educating and training our people, while connecting and constructing basic opportunities for all our citizens.  It is a bold course of action will guide us over the next three years. It will address long-standing problems from healthcare to prison reform with cost-effective, common sense solutions.

Specifically focusing on Alabama's approximately 55 rural counties, we are directly addressing obstacles that stand in the way of our state's potential for greatness, in education, healthcare, access to technology, job growth and economic opportunity. Once again in Alabama, we will do what we've never been done before, not because it is easy - but because it is hard.
And we begin with some of our state's youngest citizens, in one of our state's greatest success stories. Alabama's First Class Voluntary Pre-K is a shining star of success in Alabama.

Through the Office of School Readiness, Alabama's First Class Pre-K Program is consistently ranked among the best in the nation and serves as a model for other states. We are working to give young children a 'new, strong foundation' with the opportunity for a good education in a voluntary Pre-K program. That is why in this year's balanced budget I will present, we are doubling the amount of funding for First Class Pre-K.

Our goal by the year 2019 is to significantly increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in post-secondary education.

Modeled after the GEAR Up Program launched last fall by UAB, Alabama's own FUTURE Scholarship Plan, will identify 7th graders beginning in the state's poorest counties. Through Alabama's Community College System, those students will receive tutoring, summer-help programs, visits to college campuses and financial planning to make sure they not only want to go to college, but that they can and will succeed. By the time they graduate high school, after they've met strict criteria, kept their grades up, and tapped into all available financial aid, we will pay their two-year college tuition.

Offered as a "last dollars" incentive, the FUTURE Scholarship Plan will not only educate and train our students, it will produce a pipeline of well-trained, well-educated talent for industries so those businesses can expand and grow. We will be able to fund these scholarships and this plan through money we save by the streamlining measures we have already put in place in the community college system.

The money we save through consolidation and by finding efficiencies will pour back into the system to help students get a good education and be better prepared for the workforce. Launching as a pilot program, by the Year 2019 our goal is to expand the plan statewide. The results will be a well-trained, well-educated new generation of Alabamians. For the first time in Alabama, we will allow business and industry to drive our workforce development system. This year we will restructure, streamline and clarify Alabama's Workforce System to improve how we train workers for Alabama's businesses.

The new Alabama Workforce System will be driven by business and industry demand, and what skills and talents those industries need. In turn Alabama's K-12 system, community colleges and 4-year institutions, AIDT , ATN and private training companies will all work together to not only educate, and train but to also create a talent-supply chain of hardworking Alabamians to business and industries.

Essential to economic growth, job creation and the overall quality of life in Alabama is access to technology for all our citizens. Today over 1-million Alabamians do not have access to even the slowest and most basic high-speed wireless technology.  Technology is growing at lightning speed, changing the way we educate, deliver healthcare, and even start a business, yet our communities and rural areas cannot tap into the potential that broadband access would bring.

We are embarking on an ambitious plan to provide rural and under-served communities access to broadband - high speed, high capacity - technology. Working with private sector providers, we will first begin by cutting the bureaucracy that stands in the way of providing broadband access. We will first work to provide the infrastructure needed to provide broadband. Private providers will then be able to provide access and offer it at a more affordable and manageable cost to our communities.
Promoting a robust broadband network will lead to a stronger education system, increased capabilities for healthcare, a more efficient connected law enforcement and enhanced economic development opportunities. We cannot talk about fundamentally changing Alabama without addressing what has become a very difficult and growing problem in our state.
For decades, Alabama's prisons have become increasingly overcrowded, dangerous to both inmates and our corrections officers and incredibly costly to taxpayers. But that's going to change beginning now. Alabama is about to embark on a complete transformation of the state's prison system.

Led by Department of Corrections Commissioner Col Jeff Dunn, we will permanently close the doors to decades old facilities where maintenance costs have skyrocketed and increased staff are needed. These aging prisons will be consolidated and replaced by four, newly constructed state of the art facilities. And by constructing a brand new female prison facility, the State of Alabama will permanently slam the door shut on Tutwiler Prison for Women. Funded by an adequate bond issue, we will begin this process within the year. The consolidation and closing of aging facilities will produce immediate savings for the state with less operational costs, and higher efficiencies in staffing and maintenance.

These larger, more efficient facilities will meet all necessary standards and, along with prison reform measures put into place by the Legislature last year, it will drastically lower Alabama's prison overcrowding. The money we save with the more efficient prisons will in turn be used to pay off the debt of the construction. This innovative concept will not only provide more secure, safer prisons, it will also ensure the safety of our citizens, and corrections officers. Alabama's prison system will go from being an outdated, inefficient overcrowded system to being the best.  And Alabama will become the model for the rest of the nation.

In 65 of Alabama's 67 counties, there is an undeniable shortage of doctors. Alabama ranks 40th in the number of physicians per capita and we rank last in the number of dentists. It is no wonder then that we see rising rates of preventable and manageable disease, especially among rural, low-income counties. The majority of Alabama is rural, yet rural physicians make up less than 10-percent of the physician workforce. Under Alabama's Great State 2019 Plan, we will increase the number of doctors serving rural areas, especially in the state's poorest counties. Those who are classified as rural health care providers must be able to adequately support their practice and make a decent living.

To make this possible, we will increase funding for medical scholarships and loan forgiveness for medical students who commit to serving a period of time in one of our underserved communities.  This applies to physicians, physician assistants, advance-practice nurses and dentists.

We will also work to create a state tax-credit of up to 5-thousand dollars and working with our Congressional delegation we will push for a federal tax credit of up to $50-thousand dollars for those classified as rural healthcare providers. It's the first step toward reversing alarming health problems that have not gone away in Alabama.  Having a doctor in a small, rural community, changes a community and it saves lives. Greater access to good healthcare can be achieved. Our communities need it and our people deserve it.
No pageant, no festival no celebration will better commemorate Alabama's 200th birthday in the Year 2019 than for our people to be living a more prosperous, and healthy life. In 2019, let's commemorate our state's humble beginnings by celebrating greater opportunity and access to a good strong education, quality healthcare and game-changing technology for all Alabamians. There is no better way to mark the 50th anniversary of the time Alabamians set their mind to achieving the impossible, than for Alabamians to once again prove WE CAN DO THIS.

Bills that may impact our industry:

**Currently only 125 house bills have been introduced
**Currently only 144 Senate bills have been introduced

Workman's Compensation Bills:

HB 20 sponsored by Rep. Williams: Workers' compensation insurance, corporate officer exempt from, procedures provided for, Sec. 25-5-50 am'd.

SB 122 sponsored by Sen. Orr: Workers' compensation, employer liability for permanent total disability benefits after employee reaches age 65 limited, prompt medical attention required for benefits, Secs. 25-5-57, 25-5-77 am'd.

Tax Incentives:

HB 34 sponsored by Rep. McCutcheon: Alabama Renewal Act for port authority-part of Republican platform for economic development.(See details in House Republican Agenda)

HB 36 sponsored by Rep. South: Small Business Act, tax credits for small business employers authorized under certain conditions, Sec. 40-18-321 am'd.(Republican Agenda)

SB 137 sponsored by Sen. Singleton:No company receiving tax credits may use over 5% of temporary workers.

SB 90 by sponsored by Sen. Orr: Taxation, tax credit for employers employing apprentices, Apprenticeship Tax Credit Act

SB 75 by Senator Dial: Heroes for Hire Tax Credit Act of 2012, renamed, Veterans Employment Act, Secs. 40-18-320, 40-18-321, 40-18-322 am'd.
Union Related / Minimum Wage

HB 37, by Rep. Mooney-CA Right to work part of Republican platform

SB 111, by Sen.  Dial-Companion legislation

HB 70/71, by Rep. Melton:  Wages, establish the Alabama Minimum Wage Act, to set the state minimum wage, provide for a cost-of-living increase, const. amend.

Other Bills of Interest:

SB 113, by Sen. Ward: Lengthens the time for bringing a deceptive trade practice 
action from one year to four years from the alleged Deceptive Trade Practices Act 

HB 62, by Rep. Gaston: Taxation, tax credits for rehabilitation of qualified structures, credits extended until 2022, Secs.40-9F-4, 40-9F-7 am'd.

HB 109 by Rep. Nordgren: Health Savings Accounts, income tax deduction auth. for contributions to, Sec. 40-18-15.6 added.

SB 131 by Sen. Sanford- Health Savings Account companion to above bill

Tax, General:

HB38 by Rep. Tuggle: Taxpayer Advocate, duties expanded, appointed by Governor, maintenance of public website required, annual report to certain legislative committees by regaining tax law ambiguities, Sec. 40-2A-4 am'd.

SB 105 sponsored by Sen. Dial: Firearms, pistol permits, valid military id has same effect for purposes authorizing of carrying concealed

SB 14, by Senator Allen: Firearms, possession of does not constitute disorderly conduct, possession of in a vehicle or on certain property authorized under certain conditions, exception, Secs. 13A-11-7, 13A-11-73, 13A-11-74, 13A-11-75 am'd.

The Alabama House of Representatives  reconvenes on:
Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016 at 1 p.m.

The Alabama Senate reconvenes on:
Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016 at 2 p.m. 
2016 Legislative Calendar

Alabama House of Representatives
Important Session Links

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