Goat Hill Report- Week Ending March 18, 2022

This week, the Alabama legislature completed Days 22 and 23 of the 2022 legislative session, leaving seven more legislative days. The legislature is set to take their Spring Break next week, and will return the week of March 28. We continue to hear that the session will conclude in early to mid-April. Details of this week’s notable legislative action and other political news are provided below.  

Legislation Affecting the Concrete Industry  

Senate Joint Resolution 83 by Senator Greg Albritton was introduced this week to form a commission to study indemnification provisions in Alabama construction contracts. The commission will include a member of the Alabama Senate, House of Representatives, ACIA, Subtractors Association of Alabama, AGC, ABC, Engineering Council, Alabama Road Builders Association, two-year college system, and the finance department. The resolution passed the Senate and is awaiting final approval by the House the week of March 28th. The commission will work to bring legislation in 2022 that is supported by all construction groups.    

General Fund Budget Pending Final Agreement  

On Tuesday, the Alabama House of Representatives approved the largest General Fund Budget in the state’s history, totaling $2.7 billion. Since the House made changes to the Senate-passed version of the GF Budget, the bill went back to the Alabama Senate for concurrence. However, the Senate voted not to accept the House changes and instead go to a conference committee to work out differences between the House and Senate versions. Notable aspects of the FY2023 spending plan include a 4% pay raise for state employees and a one-time bonus for retired state employees. The budget will also provide extra funds for the Alabama Department of Mental Health and the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles. The money allocated to the Department of Mental Health will allow for construction of community mental health centers and the implementation of crisis intervention training programs. The House also voted to pilot an extension of Medicaid maternity coverage from the current 60 days to a full year after birth. The primary differences in the House and Senate version relate to the amount of increased funds directed to target programs at the Dept. of Mental Health, Alabama Medicaid, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, and for the state’s District Attorneys – but the overall support of these programs is not at issue.  

Latest Poll in Races for U.S. Senate and Governor  

The Alabama Forestry Assn PAC released a poll on Monday that was done by nationally-known pollster McLaughlin & Associates. The survey of 500 likely Republican Primary voters was conducted from March 10-13. Poll results for the state’s top two contests indicate (1) the U.S. Senate Republican primary is shaping up as a contest between Katie Britt and Mike Durant, who are separating themselves from Congressman Mo Brooks; and (2) Governor Kay Ivey holds a commanding lead in the GOP Primary for Governor. In the U.S. Senate primary, Mike Durant is polling at 33.8%, Katie Britt close behind at 32%, Mo Brooks at 17.6%, and 16% undecided. Congressman Brooks was early on considered the solid favorite to win the primary, particularly with the endorsement of former President Trump. As for the Governor’s race, the poll revealed likely Republican voters chose Ivey at 60%, with businessman Tim James at 13.6% and former Trump ambassador Lindy Blanchard at 10.6% – with just 14.4% undecided. It is also notable that Gov. Ivey registered an approval rating of 75.2%, with just 20.4% of Republicans disapproving of the job she’s doing as governor.  

Gambling Legislation in Both Chambers  

The gambling issue has re-emerged in the last half of the session. Two separate lottery and gambling bills awaiting votes in the Alabama House and Senate, but each still faces tough odds in the remaining days of this legislative session. On Thursday, the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee voted to advance the recently introduced HB501 by Representative Chip Brown (R-Mobile), which is a “lottery only” bill with no casino-style expansion provisions that are in a competing Senate bill. The House committee approved the lottery bill on a voice vote. Meanwhile, the Senate has yet to vote on the multi-faceted proposals in SB293 and SB294 by Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Range) to allow a lottery and casino-style gaming. Sen. Albritton’s legislation authorizes a state lottery, sports betting, eight full casinos with slots and table games and two smaller gambling sites that could have up to 300 slot machines each. Albritton said the Senate will wait to see if Browns’ legislation has a chance in the House, but there are just seven possible legislative days remaining to pass bills in this session.  

Charter School Funding Bill Passes Senate  

On Thursday, the Alabama Senate approved an amended version of SB302 by Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston) concerning public charter school funding. Currently, public charter schools in the state receive federal and state dollars, but receive no county tax dollars on a per student basis (even if the student attends a charter school in his home county). The bill has drawn great scrutiny from the state’s teacher union – the Alabama Education Association – and other traditional education groups. Sen. Marsh considered the bill a work in progress heading into floor debate. To that end, Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) offered a key amendment that excludes counties with a population of 40,000 or less from the requirements concerning the county dollars. The amendment also protects existing county revenues committed by a statutory or constitutional provision, a key point raised by bill opponents, who commented that the legislation as drafted was ripe for litigation. A companion bill to SB302, HB459 by Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur), has not been voted on in House committee to date. It now appears that Sen. Marsh’s bill stands the best chance of passage in the lower chamber in the final days of session.  

The legislature will reconvene March 29, 2022.

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