Goat Hill Report- Week Ending Feb. 18, 2022

This week Alabama legislature completed Days 10, 11 and 12 of the 2022 legislative session. With another 3-day week this coming week, by next Thursday legislators will reach the halfway point of the session’s 30 meeting days. Details of this week’s notable legislative action, as well as key political news, is provided below.

Bill Advances to Untax Federal ARPA Benefits

Legislation to make sure Alabama families don’t pay more in state income taxes because of last year’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) is just one step away from final passage. Much like the legislation that was passed in 2021 to untax businesses’ CARES Act benefits, the HB231 by Rep. Jim Carns (R-Birmingham) would change the state tax code to ensure taxpayers received the full benefit of the federal/ARPA COVID-19 relief. Under current law, the expanded child tax credit and other special tax credits extended by Congress last year are considered taxable income by the state. HB231 was approved in the Senate education budget committee on Wednesday. If the legislation doesn’t get approved, Alabamians reportedly would pay an extra $87 million in state income taxes. Lawmakers have expressed an urgency to pass the legislation since Alabamians are filing their taxes now. With the April 15 just two months away, those who have already filed their taxes would need to file an amended return in order to get a refund.

Military Friendly Bills Pass Senate

On Tuesday, the Alabama Senate approved several bills related to military operations in the state and making relocation to Alabama easier for members of the armed forces and their families. The bills now move to the House. The legislative package was recommended by the Alabama Military Stability Commission chaired by Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth (R), and features the following bills:

• SB28 by Sen. Tom Butler (R-Madison) would create Space National Guard within the Alabama National Guard if the federal government creates the Space National Guard in the National Defense Authorization Act by fiscal year 2025.

• SB99 by Sen. Andrew Jones (R-Centre) creates a compact allowing psychologists and counselors licensed to practice in participating states to also practice within Alabama.

• SB167 by Sen. Shay Shelnutt (R-Trussville) creates a compact so that occupational therapists licensed to practice in other states can also practice within Alabama.

• SB141, also by Sen. Butler, extends the deadline for various occupational licensure boards to allow military spouses licensed in other states to practice while in Alabama.

• SB116 by Sen. Tom Whatley (R-Auburn) would make it easier for children of active military members locating to Alabama to enroll in local school in advance and without proof of residency.

• SB119 by Sen. Will Barfoot (R-Pike Road) expands scholarships provided under the Alabama G.I. and Dependents’ Educational Benefit Act to include in-state private two-and four-year colleges. It also adds the U.S. Space Command to branches qualifying for the benefit.

Polling Released in Governor’s and US Senate Races

A new poll commissioned by the Alabama Farmers Federation (ALFA) was released this week showing Governor Kay Ivey with a strong lead in her re-election campaign, and a close race among the three leading candidates in the GOP field for U.S. Senate. ALFA’s political arm, FarmPAC, conducted a poll that surveyed 600 likely Republican voters with the following results:

• Governor’s race: In the race between incumbent Governor Kay Ivey, businessman Tim James, and former U.S. Ambassador to Slovenia Lindy Blanchard, the poll revealed Ivey at 54.7%, James at 11.5%, and Blanchard at 9.8%, with 21.9% undecided.

• U.S. Senate race: In the contest between Congressman Mo Brooks (R-AL5), former Business Council of Alabama CEO Katie Britt, and “Blackhawk Down” veteran Mike Durant, the poll showed Brooks at 33.7%, Britt at 28.5%, Durant at 24.4%, and 13% undecided.

The legislature will reconvene on Tuesday, February 22, 2022.

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