The Alabama legislature met for three days last week after taking off the previous week. The legislature has now met for 9 of the possible 30 days. So far things have run smoothly, and the COVID protocols have allowed the legislature to operate without any major problems. Guests are still limited without an appointment.
Medical marijuana bill approved in Senate
After fewer than 20 minutes of debate, the Senate approved legislation legalizing and regulating medical marijuana by a vote of 20 – 10 on Wednesday.
The bill would allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana products to treat 17 qualifying medical conditions and symptoms listed in the bill, including post-traumatic stress disorder, autism spectrum disorder, Crohn’s disease, HIV/AIDS-related nausea, cancer-related chronic pain and nausea, and sickle-cell anemia. It also creates a Medical Cannabis Commission to oversee regulations and licensing for medical marijuana cultivators, processors and dispensaries, and also requires a statewide seed-to-sale tracking system for all cannabis in the state.
Sen. Tim Melson (R – Florence), a physician, has been working on the legislation for several years. The bill has been approved by the Senate in previous years but has died in the House. Sen. Melson indicated he is optimistic about its chances in the House this year.
Vote on gaming bill delayed
Prior to the weeklong legislative break, Sen. Del Marsh (R – Anniston), the sponsor of comprehensive gaming legislation, indicated that the full Senate would vote on the bill this week. On Tuesday, however, Sen. Marsh said he would continue working on the legislation over the next two weeks to garner more support in the Senate and House.
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.
Sen. Marsh said he is considering adding two additional casino locations two the bill, with one in each of the seven congressional districts. Those two locations would be open to competitive bids, which would be overseen by the new Gaming Commission set up in the legislation.
The Legislative Services Agency estimated the lottery, casinos, and sports betting would raise net revenue of about $450 million to $670 million. The lottery money would fund college scholarships in high-demand career fields. Money from license fees and a 20% tax on the casinos would support the expansion of broadband internet access, the state General Fund, rural health care, mental health, and other programs.
The legislation, a constitutional amendment, requires three-fifths approval in the Senate and House. Sen. Marsh has said he has the 21 votes needed in the Senate, but the 63 votes needed in the House may be harder to get.
Bills of Interest to the Concrete Industry
House Bill 227 by Representative Joe Lovvorn would create a tax credit of up to $3,000 per individual for the constructing a safe room in the person’s residence. The available credits are capped at $2,000,000 annually and would be available in tax years 2022 – 2025. The bill was approved by the House Ways and Means Education Committee on Wednesday and had its second reading on Thursday. The bill now awaits final approval in the House. Senator Tom Whatley will carry the bill in the Senate.
House Bill 220 by Representative Nathaniel Ledbetter would shift construction oversight responsibilities from the Department of Construction Management to the 2 or 4-year college building a project. The bill would also remove the Department of Construction Management from oversight of construction projects less than $500,000. Finally, the bill changes the safe room requirement at 2 and 4-year schools to being rated for tornados instead of possibly requiring hurricane safe rooms along the coast. The ACIA played a key role in requiring safe rooms at 2 and 4-year schools following the devastating storms in Tuscaloosa. The bill passed the House 96-1 on Wednesday.
House Bill 234 by Representative Steve McMillian would prohibit indemnification language in contracts and subcontracts for road and bridge work in the state. The bill was approved by the State Government Committee on Wednesday and now awaits consideration by the full House. We are closely monitoring the legislation as the concrete industry is frequently subjected to indemnification language in contracts and believe it to be unfair. Alabama is one of the few states that allow indemnification provisions in contracts.
The legislature will reconvene on Tuesday, March 2, 2021. Should you have any questions about this report please contact our office.