Coronavirus priority legislation signed by Governor
The Governor signed three priority bills on Friday. Senate Bill 30 by Sen. Arthur Orr (R – Decatur) would provide civil immunity for business entities, health care providers, educational entities, churches, governmental entities, and cultural institutions from certain damages claimed by individuals who allege that they contracted or were exposed to Coronavirus. The bill would shield those entities from lawsuits over COVID-19 exposure unless the person could prove the entity was acting with reckless or intentional misconduct.
The Senate swiftly approved the bill last week, and the House Judiciary committee approved it on Wednesday with the House voting 86 – 4 for final passage on Thursday.
House Bill 170 by Rep. Danny Garrett (R – Trussville) would ensure that federal stimulus funds derived from the CARES Act and subsequent coronavirus relief legislation are not subject to state income taxes. The bill also includes provisions from bills Garrett proposed last year that would decouple the state from the federal treatment of global intangible low-taxed income, adopt a single-sales-factor apportionment, and create a state and local taxes cap workaround.
House Bill 192 would renew and improve job creation incentives found in the Alabama Jobs Act and Growing Alabama Act. The Alabama Jobs Act is a program that provides tax incentives to stimulate job creation and capital investment through two separate tax credits – the Jobs Credit and the Investment Credit. Both credits expired in 2020 and had been temporarily extended through Executive Order. This bill extends the credits until July 2023.
Gaming debated in the Senate
Late Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Del Marsh (R – Anniston) filed his comprehensive gaming and broadband expansion bills. Both bills received favorable reports from the Senate Tourism Committee on Wednesday and were on the Senate floor on Thursday. Sen. Marsh said he would not seek a vote on either until they return after next week’s legislative break.
Debate on the gaming legislation centered on casino locations. The bill proposes establishing a state lottery as well as five casinos offering table games, sports betting, and slot machines. The casinos would be located at four existing dog tracks plus a fifth site in north Alabama that would be run by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, the state’s only federally recognized Native American tribe. The proposal also would encourage the governor to negotiate with the Poarch Band for a compact involving their three other sites, which currently have electronic bingo machines.
Several legislators voiced concern that new casinos were not slated for their districts. Sen. Marsh indicated he is open to adding up to two additional casino locations to the legislation.
The proposal would have to be approved by a three-fifths majority of each chamber of the Alabama Legislature and then a majority of voters in a statewide vote.
The Legislative Services Agency estimated the lottery would generate $194-$279 million annually for college scholarships awarded on a mix of need, merit, and workforce needs in the state. The agency estimated the casinos would generate $260-$393 million annually from the 20% tax on gaming revenues as authorized by this amendment.
Money from gaming would be split between the newly established Alabama Gaming Commission, cities, counties, rural healthcare, mental health services, broadband expansion, and other issues to be appropriated in an independent supplemental bill.
Bills of Interest to the Concrete Industry
House Bill 220 by Representative Nathaniel Ledbetter was approved by the State Government committee on Wednesday. Representatives for AGC, ABC, and AIA all spoke in opposition to the bill during a public hearing called on the legislation. However, the bill came out of committee 7-0. The bill now awaits consideration by the full House.
Upcoming legislative schedule
The House of Representatives and Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, February 23, at 1:00 and 2:00 p.m., respectively. They are taking a scheduled break next week to review COVID protocols and ensure everything is running smoothly and safely.