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  • Legislative Week 9: Bills Gain Speed as Session Clock Ticks

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    Last week was a busy three-day week for members of the Legislature with several bills moving on to the Governor’s desk for final passage, including the COVID-19 Recovery Capital Credit Protection Act and the in-home wine delivery bill which the Governor signed on Monday.

    COVID-19 Recovery Capital Credit Protection Act
    Thursday, the House gave final approval to legislation giving new and expanding industries in the state a break on workforce requirements if COVID-19 caused hiring delays. The state’s capital credit program allows an annual tax credit based on a percentage of businesses' capital costs. To qualify, the businesses must meet hiring and wage requirements. Senate Bill 274 creates the COVID-19 Recovery Capital Credit Protection Act of 2021, providing an extension to the employment and wage requirements for a qualifying project placed into service during 2019, 2020, and 2021. Initial wage and employment requirements will be extended up to two years for projects “that have been directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the bill says. The bill now goes to the Governor.

    Wine Shipments
    House Bill 437, allowing beer, wine and spirits from local retailers and brew pubs to deliver to homes, passed the legislature last week and was signed by the Governor on Monday.
    A significant number of other bills moved through their process last week and are detailed below.

    Vaccine Passports
    Thursday, the Senate approved a bill to prohibit the issuance of state or local government “vaccine passports.” Senate Bill 267 provides that “state and local governments “may not require an individual to receive an immunization or present documentation of an immunization as a condition for receiving any government benefit or service or for entry into a government building…”  the bill is not specific to the coronavirus.
    State Tax Filing
    The State Government Committee passed Sen. Bill 352 that revises dates for certain taxes, including excise and income taxes' due dates to coincide with due dates for federal taxes. The bill provides that the Dept of Revenue to delay due dates for filing.
    Pharmacy Benefit Managers
    The Senate passed a bill on Thursday to further regulate pharmacy benefit managers (“PBMs”). The senate-passed version of SB227 is based on lengthy negotiations and significant concessions by both opponents and proponents of the original bill. The bill adopts many of the provisions that pharmacists sought in the original bill, but no longer contains the elements that would have resulted in the greatest cost increases to health plans and plan members.
    The major components of the substitute bill passed by the Senate include:
    • Prohibits the mandatory use of mail order pharmacy but allows optional mail order;
    • Prohibits the mandatory use of a PBM affiliated pharmacy;
    • Allows PBMs to use incentives to encourage people to use lower cost options like mail order;
    • Requires a PBM to let a pharmacy participate in a network if the pharmacy agrees to all the terms and conditions of the network contract;
    • Prohibits a PBM from reimbursing a PBM affiliated pharmacy more than a non-affiliated pharmacy for prescriptions for patients who are members of the same health benefit plan;
    • Allows a pharmacy to inform a patient about lower cost alternative medications;
    • Requires PBMs to prepare and make available an annual report for its clients, setting forth the amount of the rebates received and amount retained by the PBM;
    • Adds significant regulatory oversight of PBMs by the Department of Insurance.
    SB 227 now moves to the House for consideration.
    The future of a state lottery is still up in the air as Senator McClendon’s legislative package was considered by the Senate Wednesday. While enabling legislation establishing the governing structure for a lottery was approved, the constitutional amendment necessary to authorize the lottery was tabled over divisions between those who want a straight lottery bill and those who want a more comprehensive package that would include casinos. While only nine legislative days remain in the 2021 Regular Session, we expect more action on this issue in the remaining days.
    Medical Cannabis
    The House Judiciary Committee passed Senator Melson’s medical cannabis bill Wednesday after considering 17 proposed amendments and approving 10. SB 46 would allow medical cannabis to be prescribed in certain forms to treat 16 conditions after other pain remedies have been exhausted.  The bill would also create an Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission to establish a registry for patients, caregivers, and facilities. The bill still has a long way to go; the next hurdle is the House Health Committee, then the full House. Although previously passed by the Senate, SB 46 would then have to return to the Senate for concurrence with the House changes before going to the governor.
    Concealed Carry
    The House approved a Senate-passed bill Thursday that would establish a lifetime concealed carry permit and require the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency to develop a statewide firearm database of “prohibited persons.” SB 308 would set the permit fee at $300, or $150 for those over 60 years old. The bill also includes yearly reporting requirements for sheriff’s offices relating to the number of permits issued and fees collected.
    Open Enrollment
    The Senate Education Policy Committee approved a bill Tuesday that would require Alabama school systems to adopt open enrollment policies. SB 365 would include exceptions and allow for denial of enrollment for several reasons, including:
    • Lack of space or teachers
    • Requested program not offered
    • School not equipped with necessary facilities to meet special needs of student
    • Student does not meet eligibility criteria
    • Student has been/is being expelled or legally denied permission to enroll
    • Enrollment would run counter to a desegregation plan in effect
    Further, schools would not be required to:
    • Alter the structure of the school or the arrangements/function of rooms
    • Offer a particular program if not already offered
    • Alter/waive any established eligibility criteria for participation in a particular program
    • Provide transportation for out-of-system students
    SB 365 cleared the Committee by a 7-3 vote and can now be considered by the full Senate.
    Student-Athlete Compensation
    The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill Wednesday to allow compensation of college student-athletes when their name, image, or likeness is used in promotional material. HB 404 comes amid an ongoing U.S. Supreme Court case considering the merits of collegiate amateurism. Already passed by the House, HB 404 can now be taken up by the full Senate.
    Remaining Schedule:
    Nine legislative days remain in the 2021 Regular Session. Friday, lawmakers were made aware of the tentative schedule for the remaining legislative session. The schedule includes two legislative days this week through May 6th, with plans to Sine Die, May 17th, the 30th legislative day.
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