The Montgomery Chamber of Commerce monitors and engages in legislative discussion regarding:
MILITARY STABILIZATION INITIATIVES THAT:
- Establishes a Military Spouse Teaching Licensure Mobility compact that designates a home state for their license and use the “privilege to practice” in another state (based on a military assignment).
- Amend all statutes wherever branches of the military are mentioned in the Alabama Code to include “Space Force.” Military branch of the nation’s armed forces conducts military operations in outer space and space warfare.
- Amend the Military Spouse Licensure reciprocity statute to include DoD (Department of Defense) contractors.(Military Jobs Opportunity Act)
- Amend the Alabama National Guard Scholarship statute to require guard scholarship benefits to include high-achieving students who receive scholarships from other sources, above and beyond the costs of tuition lab fees, etc.
- Policies that allow for growth of innovative and technology-based business initiatives. (The Game Plan package)
- Efforts to provide increased opportunities for access to capital and incentives for startups and innovation driven companies. (The Game Plan package)
- Efforts to encourage investment in early state, innovative, wealth-and job-creating businesses that will remain headquartered, along with most of their workforce in our community or Alabama. (The Game Plan package)
- Effective implementation and utilization of Opportunity Zones and similar economic development programs.
- Efforts to recruit and retain college graduates from Alabama’s postsecondary and four-year institutions as an imperative investment in human capital and the workforce of the future.
- Support policies and programs that focus on the goal of adding 500,000 new highly skilled/tech employees to the workforce by 2025, identified as critical to Alabama’s economic development and recruitment efforts.
- Support worker training initiatives that assist businesses in the recruitment of, the enhancement of current trained workforce and re-skilling a workforce for re-entry.
- Expand the role of Alabama’s two year and four-year universities/institutions in developing/training a workforce through innovation, critical research, and leadership development.
- Support efforts to recruit and maintain high-quality teachers.
- Ensures that student education and job training programs culminate in national, industry-recognized credentials specifically relevant to current skilled gaps and or targeted future jobs.
- Expand access to early childhood education, literacy, and computer science training.
- Authorization or reauthorization of economic development incentives and tax credits that create jobs, expand industry and re-invest in communities to include refurbishing and upgrading existing operations. (The Game Plan package)
- Increase awareness of and focus on resolving the challenges that threaten the economic viability of small and minority business, to include the process of applying for and receiving a business license.
- Funding mechanisms to enhance Montgomery’s Infrastructure, Tourism, Business industry and historical significance. (Self-help business improvement districts)
- Funding mechanisms to enhance public safety initiatives that will promote safer communities and minimize negative impacts on citizens, public health and businesses. (District Attorney Crime Package)
Contact Sheron Rose at 334.240.9470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce would like to thank its community partners and members who contributed their time and effort in formulating the 2023 Legislative Priorities.
MONTGOMERY COUNTY DELEGATION:
Senator Will Barfoot | Senator Kirk Hatcher | Representative Phillip Ensler | Representative Kenyatte Hassell I Representative Reed Ingram | Representative Kelvin Lawrence | Representative Patrice McClammy I Tashina Morris I Representative Chris Sells
State Education and General Fund Budgets
Governor Ivey signed both the General Fund and Education Trust Fund Budgets along with their corresponding supplemental appropriations bills into law. The budgets and supplemental bills authorize and appropriate around $15 billion of total spending between now and September 30, 2024 (the end of the State’s next Fiscal Year). The budgets are, by far, the largest in the history of the State.
State General Fund
The total expenditure for the State General Fund in the 2024 Fiscal Year is $2.557 billion, which is an increase of $30 million from the House passed version and $35 million from the Senate passed version. The final conference committee report reinstated $2.5 million to pay off the World Games debt and added an additional $23.5 million to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. The bulk of the General Fund’s spending is from Medicaid - $863 million - and the Department of Corrections - $661.7 million. State employees will also receive a 2% raise.
State General Fund Supplemental
The supplemental makes immediate appropriations in the amount of $207.6 million. The highlights of the supplemental are as follows:
- $10 million to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs;
- $10.9 million to ADECA for various projects across the State;
- $39.9 million to pay off State bond debt;
- $22 million to the Department of Mental Health, including $18 million for the construction of the Taylor Hardin mental hospital;
- $50 million to the General Fund Budget Reserve Fund;
- $6 million to the Department of Finance for elevator upgrades in the State Capitol;
- $12.4 million to the Alabama Forestry Commission, $10 million of which is to be used for grants to volunteer fire departments across the State;
- $2.5 million to the World Games, totaling $5 million across both budget bills to help extinguish the World Games’ debt;
- $5 million to the Montgomery County Commission for economic development
- $5 million to the Mobile Airport Authority for relocation of commercial airline operations; and,
- $20 million to the Port of Alabama for coal loading/unloading equipment.
Education Trust Fund
The total expenditure for the Education Trust Fund (ETF) in the 2024 Fiscal Year is $8.78 billion. Very little changed in the overall budget. The budget chairs were able to appropriate the exact amount of money, though allocated differently, in the budget as recommended by the Governor. The University of Alabama system will receive $672.5 million, the Auburn University system will receive $362 million, while the State Department of Education will receive a large increase, up to $534 million, primarily due to the passage of recent bills such as the Alabama Numeracy Act ($40 million), Career Tech and Career Coaches ($49 million), and Math and Science initiatives ($94 million). The ETF includes a 2% increase for education workers.
Education Trust Fund Supplemental
The ETF supplemental immediately makes appropriations in the amount of $2.787 billion. The highlights from the supplemental are as follows:
- $393 million for tax rebates, which is $150 for individual income filers, and $300 per joint filers to begin on November 30, 2023.
- $18 million to pay off State bond debt;
- $64 million to the State Board of Education, including $20 million for new buses and $20 million for student materials;
- $10 million to existing charter schools;
- $40 million for school safety grants;
- $360 million to school systems to help offset inflationary increases as it relates to a 2020 bond issuance for construction and maintenance projects;
- $59 million to the education employees’ insurance fund for Covid-related expenditures;
- $111.6 million to the Department of Commerce for various workforce training centers and workforce programs;
- $51 million to the Alabama Innovation Fund;
- $46.6 million to the Alabama Commission on Higher Education;
- Varying amounts to each higher-education institution in Alabama for priority projects;
- $486.4 million to the Alabama Community College System, including $103 million for the construction of inmate education in state prison facilities;
- $179 million to the K-12 Capital Grant Program which will be managed by the Lieutenant Governor and used to provide grants to eligible school systems with deferred maintenance, technology needs, or capital projects;
- $30 million to the Distressed Higher Education loan program, which was designed to provide a backstop to institutions, like Birmingham-Southern, that are in financial distress;
- $353.9 million to the Educational Opportunities Reserve Fund which will provide access to funding, even outside of proration, to programs such as the Literacy and Numeracy Acts which require significant funding; and
- $9.5 million to the Department of Mental Health.
Economic Development – “The Game Plan”
The Enhancing Alabama’s Economic Progress Act extends Alabama Jobs Act and the Growing Alabama program to 2028. Increases the Act’s incentive caps by $25 million per year for the next five years(current cap is $375 million). Adds renewable energy projects to the Jobs Act
The Transparency in Incentives Act requires the AL Dept of Commerce to publish on its website certain information about economic development incentives awarded under the Alabama Jobs Act. Designed to increase transparency within economic development and the Depart of Commerce
The Innovation and Small Business Act authorizes a change of name of the Alabama Innovation Corporation to Innovate Alabama. It creates and allocates $25 million per year for an Innovating Alabama Tax Credit to encourage the development of small tech-related and innovative industries. The Act authorizes the Alabama Innovation Corporation to make Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Research matching grants to certain entities.
The Site Evaluation and Economic Development Strategy Act allows the State Industrial Development Authority (SIDA) to help develop industry sites, with the goal of speeding up the process. The SEEDS Act (Site Evaluation and Economic Development Strategy) provides at least 25% of the credits to be reserved for rural counties.
The Grocery Tax Cut bill is the largest tax cut in Alabama history. The bill will immediately cut the State’s tax rate on food from 4% to 3% beginning on September 1, 2023. The rate will be reduced to 2% beginning the following September if projected revenue growth is at or above 3.5%. The 2% cut would represent a loss of about $300 million in revenue to the State each year. However, the State is expected to recoup much of that via spending in other sectors of the economy. The bill prohibits local governments and counties from raising the tax on food after it is signed into law. Additionally, a committee will be formed later this year to analyze the cut’s impact and determine whether the remaining sales tax on food should be reduced.
Other legislation at a glance:
Alabama Transportation Infrastructure Bank expands additional entities, including tax increment district, Alabama improvement districts and cooperative improvement districts, a government unit that may receive loans or financial assistance from the bank. The bill also reduces the minimum project cost to be eligible for assistance from the bank and further provides for the bank’s annual reporting requirements.
School Choice Bills changes to the Alabama Accountability Act (“AAA”) and the Alabama Charter School law both received final. The AAA is a tax-credit based school choice program that allows students zoned for underperforming schools and low-income students to receive scholarships to attend the public or private school of their choice. The AAA expansion will eventually increase the cap for income tax credits to businesses and individuals who donate to scholarship granting organizations from $30 million up to $60 million, while the Charter School legislation modernizes the process for appointing members to the Alabama Public Charter School Commission and makes clarifications as to how funds are appropriated to conversion charter schools.
Driver License Payment Suspension law would allow up to three payments on a payment plan for fines and fees before a judge could suspend their driver’s license. It also allows up to one missed court date. Prior to the bill’s enactment, those unable to pay their fines or fees would have their licenses suspended, which made it more difficult for them to get to work. Without the ability to work, individuals could not pay traffic fines.
Agricultural/Critical Infrastructure Protection Bill focuses on governments and political members of foreign countries of concern (Russia, China, Iran and North Korea) as well as those currently subject to US sanctions. The bill prevents those entities from purchasing agricultural land, forestry land, and any land within 10 miles of any military installation or critical infrastructure facility, defined as refineries, chemical manufacturing facilities, seaports and other similar facilities. Alabama is one of about 20 states to pass legislation curtailing foreign ownership rights.
Anti-ESG Bill The bill clarifies that a company engages in an economic boycott if it refuses to do business with another company solely because that company engages in the fossil fuels, energy, timber, mining, agriculture, and firearms industries, among other protected industries and activities.
Notable Bills that Passed on the Last Day
Distracted driving. Makes it illegal to drive while holding a telecommunications device. The House amended the bill to make it a secondary violation, rather than a primary violation. This means that a citation can only be issued by a police officer if there is another valid reason to stop the driver. If the bill is signed by Governor Ivey, no citations may be issued for 12 months following the effective date. Only warnings may be issued, effectively giving citizens a year to adjust to the new law.
Targets of Ethics Commission investigations treatment changes. Exculpatory evidence, which may exonerate the target of the investigation, will now have to be disclosed by the Ethics Commission. Currently, there is no requirement for the Ethics Commission to do so.
Overtime pay exempted from state taxes. The bill passed last week with an exemption cap that was seemingly impossible to administer. Governor Ivey returned the bill with an Executive Amendment that removed the cap. The Executive Amendment, which also sunsets the bill in June 2025, was approved unanimously. It is believed that Alabama is the first state to exempt some portion of income tax for overtime pay. The Legislature will have to decide in 2025 whether to reauthorize the exemption or let it expire.
Notable Bills that Died on the Last Day
HB209 by Rep. Kiel, which would have banned individuals from assisting another person in ordering or filling out an absentee ballot, did not receive final approval. Critics of the bill pointed to it as another form of voter suppression, while supporters, like Secretary of State Wes Allen, maintained it would prevent ballot harvesting while providing exceptions for valid reasons to help fill out someone else’s ballot, like blindness or the inability to write.
SB196 by Senator Orr regarding public records requests also died. This bill would have required government agencies to respond to a public record request more promptly. After passing the Senate and later being amended in a House committee to exempt the judicial branch, Governor Ivey’s legal office told reporters that the bill was not ready for passage, citing concerns with the timeline to produce public records. The bill did not make it to the House floor for a vote. Unlike the Executive Order issued by Governor Ivey in January that required executive branch agencies to begin streamlining the records request process, SB196 impacted all public officers in the State and provided tighter deadlines to fulfill the records requests.
HB43 by Rep. Warren died as well. The bill would have required incoming students who skip kindergarten to take a readiness test to enter first grade, and, if they did not exhibit readiness, enter kindergarten instead. Alabama currently does not mandate kindergarten for students, and it is estimated that about 4,000 students enter first grade without first attending kindergarten. Rep. Warren has signaled she intends to work with senators who had an issue with the bill, primarily Sen. Rodger Smitherman, in the months before the 2024 Session.