This week, the Alabama legislature completed Days 19, 20 and 21 of the 2022 legislative session. This week, the legislature will hold a two-day week (Tuesday and Thursday session days) and then take Spring Break the week of March 21. Speculation continues to circulate that the session will conclude in early to mid-April. Details of this week’s notable legislative action is provided below.
Education Budget Passes House
By a vote of 100-1, the Alabama House of Representatives approved an $8.17 billion Education Trust Fund Budget for FY2023. HB135 by Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville), will increase education funding by about $502 million over the current year and has drawn praise from education officials for its increases – including teacher salaries (4% raise) and workforce development. Besides operations and maintenance expenses, the ETF includes some more targeted spending, including more money for math and science teacher recruitment and money to fund the state’s new requirement that every high school graduate complete Federal Application for Federal Student Aid in order to find out their assistance options for paying for college. There’s also more money in the Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative for teacher training. That funding is part of about $20 million in funding for the pending Numeracy Act, Orr’s pending legislation to increase math instruction in elementary schools. The biggest expense in the proposed Numeracy Act is math coaches. HB135 now goes to the Senate for consideration, where it is expected to be voted after the legislature returns from Spring Break the week of March 28.
Controversial Gun Bill Signed Into Law
On Thursday, Gov. Kay Ivey signed controversial gun legislation soon after a conference committee version of the bill was approved by both chambers. The “Permitless Carry” bill – HB272 by Rep. Shane Stringer (R-Citronelle) which would eliminate the requirement that gun owners receive a permit to carry a concealed handgun, cleared the House by a 70-29 margin and the Senate by a vote of 24-6. With the Governor’s signature, Alabama joins 21 states that allow concealed weapons in public without a permit. Gun rights advocates have dubbed the new framework “constitutional carry” based on citizens’ Second Amendment Right to Bear Arms. They argue that people should not have to get a permit, which requires a background check and a fee, to carry a concealed handgun. Opponents include Democrats and law enforcement, with many sheriffs and police chiefs asserting that permits are a tool officers use daily to remove weapons from the hands of individuals who should not have them in the first place. The new law will take effect on January 1.
Gambling Bill Passes Senate Committee
The Senate Tourism committee approved lottery and casino legislation on Wednesday. The legislation would authorize 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. Casinos licenses would be approved at the sites of four existing dog tracks in Greene, Jefferson, Macon, and Mobile counties. The Poarch Band of Creek Indians would be granted a casino licenses at each of their three tribal sites as well as a new location located in either DeKalb County or Jackson County. The bill could be consider by the full Senate this week.
Bills of Interest to the Concrete Industry
Senate Bill 264 which would have prohibited indemnification provisions in contracts for the negligence of another party is still awaiting a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Associated General Contractors, Associated Builders and Contractors, and now the two year community college system have voiced concerns with the legislation as drafted. The legislation is being supported by the Subcontractors Association of Alabama and the ACIA. To help address concerns among the groups effected, the ACIA is exploring establishing a commission of interested parties to develop legislation that will be amicable to all parties.
The Alabama Legislature will reconvene today.