With week six behind us, the Legislature returns from spring break today for week seven with final passage of the Education and General Fund budgets at the top of the priority list for both chambers.
Before leaving on March 18, several bills were introduced or considered, including HB 540, an entrepreneurship boosting bill of that will be of significant interest to members of the River Region’s start-up and innovation sectors. Sponsored by Rep. Bill Poole, House Bill 540 would establish the Alabama Innovation Corporation which was proposed by the Alabama Innovation Commission as part of its interim recommendations on strategies that will help the state spur innovation and support talent attractions and retention.
Senate Pro Tem Sen. Greg Reed, who serves as Vice-Chair of the Alabama Innovation Commission, said in an Alabama Daily News article that “The establishment of the Alabama Innovation Corporation will assist in our efforts to foster a more inclusive, robust and resilient economy across the state. I look forward to collaborating with my colleagues in the legislature to pass this impactful legislation.”
The Chamber continues to monitor the progress of the Innovation Commissions other bills, SB 0338 / HB 541, which would establish the Innovate Alabama Matching Grant Program to provide matching grants to entities that have received federal Small Business Research or Small Business Technology Transfer Research grants, or both. Both the senate and house bill are in committees now.
Unanimous passage of the $7.6 billion FY22 education budget, approval of a lottery bill and the Senate Tourism Committee and a bill increasing penalties for rioting closed out the pre-break session. Read on for more details on those bills and others the Chamber is monitoring.
The Senate unanimously passed a $7.6 billion FY22 education budget Thursday, representing a $455 million increase from FY21. The budget includes about $5.3 billion for K-12 and around $2 billion for higher education. A 2% pay increase for teachers is included in the proposal, and a separate bill, SB 327, would provide more targeted raises for certain math and science teachers. $95 million would be set aside to establish a “Teacher Stabilization Program” to help school systems retain teachers next year to address declines in enrollment because of COVID. The budget now moves to the House for consideration.
The Senate Tourism Committee approved legislation Wednesday that would allow voters to decide whether the State should establish a lottery. SB 319 and SB 320, sponsored by Sen. Jim McClendon, come after the narrow defeat of Sen. Del Marsh’s package that included casinos and sports betting. Marsh, the chair of the Tourism Committee, has indicated a desire to keep all options open as the Legislature heads into spring break next week, amid speculation that casinos and sports betting could reemerge as part of a more comprehensive move. Under McClendon’s plan, lottery proceeds would be divided evenly between the Education Fund and the General Fund. The package can now be considered by the full Senate.
The House passed a bill along party lines Thursday that would increase penalties for participating in a riot. HB 445 would require at least 24 hours in jail before bail consideration for the crimes of assault against a first responder in the first and second degree, aggravated riot, and unlawful traffic interference. A person convicted of first-degree assault of a first responder would serve a minimum of six months in jail, and a person would be considered intentionally participating in a riot if he or she refuses to disperse after receiving an order to do so or is in violation of curfew. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.
SB 0339 | Greg Reed / HB 0540 | William Poole
Alabama Innovation Corporation; incorporation; legislative findings, implementation of Small Business Innovation Research or Small Business Technology grants, board of directors, powers, contracts, investments, Sec. 41-10-800 to 41-10-810, inclusive, added
Alabama Innovation Corporation bill would provide for its incorporation, with the creation of a 23-member board, its powers, and duties. It would allow the corporation to enter contracts, create an accompanying fund and provide for the management of the fund. The Senate bill was referred to the committee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development. The House bill was referred to the committee on Boards, Agencies and Commissions.
SB 0338 | Greg Reed / HB 0541 | William Poole
Innovate Alabama Matching Grant Program, matching grants to entities receiving Small Business Innovation Research or Small Business Technology grants, Secs. 41-10-820 to 41-10-823, inclusive, added.
The Innovate Alabama Matching Grant Program would provide matching grants to entities that have received federal Small Business Research or Small Business Technology Transfer Research grants, or both. The Senate bill was referred to the committee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development. The House bill was referred to the committee on Boards, Agencies and Commissions.
SB 0216 | Thomas Whatley
Education, National Guard, to limit amount of private tuition reimbursed to eligible guard members, Secs. 31-10-20 to 31-10-25, inclusive, repealed; Secs. 31-10-2, 31-10-3, 31-10-4.1 am'd.
This bill, introduced during the second week of the legislative session, would extend tuition reimbursement for dually or concurrently enrolled high school/college students. set the cap for private college tuition reimbursement at the rate of the public institution with the highest tuition and instructional fee rates. This bill would make clear that the Alabama National Guard Education Assistance Program will only pay for the first degree obtained and that short certificates, long certificates, and associate degrees are considered "stackable undergraduate credentials" which may be used to obtain a baccalaureate degree, thus the first degree obtained would be a baccalaureate degree. This bill would also clarify existing law so that institutions of higher education may clearly and consistently provide Alabama National Guard Service members with the ability to maximize their education benefits. The bill is currently in the Senate committee on Finance and Taxation Education.
The Legislature has now passed the halfway point of the 2021 Regular Session by completing 16 days of their 30-day session. They will convene for two legislative days this week and three days next week.
The Senate so far has passed 149 pieces of legislation and the House has passed 160 pieces of legislation.