News & Updates

May 24, 2016

Re-cap of the 2016 Regular Session

From public education to job creation to protecting the unborn, the 2016 legislative session was quite successful.

The Legislature began the process of zero-based budgeting to bring a new level of scrutiny,
transparency, and accountability to the appropriations process. Starting with budget hearings
before session began, the Legislature passed both the General Fund and Education budgets in the
timeliest manner in recent history. Because Medicaid funding continued to prevail as the primary
funding issue, hearings and meetings have continued after adjournment applying these new
budgeting principals to better understand the program.
The largest appropriation to education since 2008 was passed providing a 4% pay raise to most
education personnel across the state. The Legislature was able to increase funding that directly impacts classrooms and
local school districts by more than $217 million in just two years.

Some of the key Bills passed this Session are listed below, with a short commentary.

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JOB CREATION


Act No. 2016-188 - Small Business Job Creation Tax Credit

. We believe that small businesses should be rewarded for growing their businesses and
creating new jobs, which is why we passed this act to provide small businesses operating
in the state with a tax credit for every new, good-paying job that they create. This
legislation allows small businesses with 75 employees or less to claim a $1,500 tax credit
for each qualified, new, full-time employee hired. To qualify for the credit, businesses
must retain the new employee for a consecutive 12-month period, and the employee must
earn a salary of $40,000 a year or more. Additionally, if the new employee is an
unemployed veteran recently returning from deployment, an additional $1,000 tax credit
may be claimed by the business as part of the Heroes for Hire Act passed by the
Legislature in 2012.


Act No. 2016-102 - Alabama Renewal Act

. Building on Alabama’s Made-in-Alabama, pay-as-you-go incentive overhaul, this
legislation gives economic developers greater flexibility to create incentive packages to
bring more companies and jobs to the state. This legislation creates two new tax credits
that economic developers can use to further attract businesses to Alabama.
o First, the law will increase the availability of shovel-ready land sites for job
creation through the use of the Growing Alabama Credit.
o Second, the law will stimulate cargo traffic at the state’s port facilities and
connect Alabama businesses to new opportunities around the world via a new Port
Credit.


Act. No. 2016-86 - Right to Work CA

. Although Alabama and many other Southeastern states are firmly right-to-work states,
recent successes to unionize plants in the South, including Volkswagen in Tennessee and
Golden Dragon in Wilcox County, have emboldened unions to step up their efforts in the
region. Due to these recent events, we prioritized this legislation to reaffirm Alabama’s
“right to work” status in the Alabama Constitution to send the message to economic
developers and potential companies looking to come to Alabama that we are open for
business. Should the amendment be approved by voters, labor organizations or
companies would be prevented from forcing or coercing employees to join or not join
union groups. It would declare that a persons’ right to work may not be denied or
restricted because they refuse to join a labor union or decide to participate in one, and
employers would not be allowed to require employees to pay dues or fees of any kind to
labor unions.


Act No. 2016-18 - Uniform Minimum Wage Act

. This law ensures that businesses across Alabama have a predictable wage standard,
which encourages economic growth. This legislation prevents local governments from
instituting their own minimum wages and requires all cities and counties in Alabama to
use either federal wage standards or a state standard should one be created in the future.


Act No. 2016-314 - Apprenticeship Tax Credit

. Workforce training is imperative to ensure that Alabamians are prepared for the jobs of
the future. This legislation provides a $1,000 tax credit to companies that train an
apprentice for at least seven months in a tax year and requires the Department of
Commerce to create an apprenticeship program in Alabama.


EDUCATION


Education Budget/Pay Raise for Teachers

. Responsible and conservative budgeting practices by Republican leadership over the last
5 years has allowed for the education budget to be in a position to increase classroom
funding, decrease classroom sizes, increase funding for healthcare and retirement, and
also reward Alabama’s education personnel with a 4% pay increase. The FY2017
education budget prioritizes funding increases in areas that have the greatest impact on
our students. In just two short years, increases in funding that directly impacts classrooms
and local school districts will increase by more than $217 million.


Act No. 2016-139 - WIRED Act

. To provide Alabama’s students with the education necessary to succeed in the 21st
Century, we passed the WIRED Act to provide the state resources necessary to put
wireless technology in every public K-12 school in Alabama. Specifically this legislation
provides the standards and funding to install wireless broadband infrastructure in every
K-12 public school classroom in the state. The poorest schools in the most poverty-
stricken areas of the Black Belt, for example, will have the same broadband access as the
most well-funded schools in Mountain Brook, and systems that have already made the
investment in broadband may use their funding to purchase tablets, computers, or other
technology needs.


School Security and Student Safety Task Force

. With headlines of mass shootings at elementary schools and colleges dominating media
outlets across the nation, an increased focus on public safety and anti-terrorism efforts
has naturally resulted. Alabama has been extremely fortunate to avoid a violent situation
like those in the news, but we must continue looking for ways to improve school safety
and ensure we are as prepared as possible to prevent or mitigate any situation that might
arise in our schools. This resolution created a task force to put together a comprehensive
review of school safety and security in Alabama, including an assessment of state laws,
regulations, and protocols related to the preparedness of state and local officials to
address active shooter situations and security measures in place at Alabama’s K-12 public
schools, colleges, and universities. The task force will submit immediate and specific
recommendations for improvement to the Alabama Legislature so that legislation may be
introduced in the 2017 Legislative Session.


DEFENDING THE RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS


Act No. 2016-416 - Stand Your Ground Immunity Hearings

. This legislation increases legal protections for individuals who exercise their right to bear
arms in situations where they are forced to protect themselves. This legislation requires
pre-trial hearings in cases where a Stand Your Ground defense in being used. This law
makes it quicker and easier for defendants to get judges to hear their claims of self-
defense, and should a judge find that deadly force was justified, it provides immunity to
the defendant from prosecution.


Act No. 2016-342 - Free Pistol Permits for Retired Military

. Qualified retired military and National Guard members that pass a background check
may now apply for and receive a pistol permit free of charge. Members must continue to
re-apply for permits every 1-5 years, but may continue to receive them free of charge
unless revoked by the sheriff of his/her county of residence.


DEFENDING THE RIGHT TO LIFE


Act No. 2016-140 - Unborn Infants’ Dignity of Life Act

. Recent reports about outrageous acts by Planned Parenthood and its representatives have
prompted public outcry regarding the organization and the practices that it utilizes. In
order to ensure that these atrocities do not occur in Alabama, this legislation bans any
kind of sale of the bodily remains of deceased unborn infants. This legislation also
reaffirms Alabama’s commitment to the dignity of unborn life by allowing the families of
deceased unborn infants to request their remains so that they may receive a proper burial,
internment, or cremation.


Act No. 2016-388 - Abortion Clinic Distance Restrictions from Schools

. Abortion clinics can attract unrest and protest and therefore can pose a public safety risk
to young students. This legislation prohibits the Alabama Department of Public Health
from issuing or renewing a license to abortion clinics located within 2,000 feet of a public
K-8 school.


Act No. 2016-397 - Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortions

. While Roe v. Wade unfortunately continues to be the law of the land, the Alabama
Legislature continues to do everything it can to protect and preserve life. This legislation
prohibits the use of a heinous abortion procedure known as dismemberment, which is
common in late-term abortions.

 

 

GOVERNMENT TRANSPARENCY


Act No. 2016-389 - Tax Incentives Reporting

. To ensure that Alabama taxpayers are getting their money’s worth when it comes to tax
incentives, the Legislature passed new reporting requirements that require each state
agency to prepare an annual report that details the benefits and costs of the incentives
they administer to the Legislature.


Act No. 2016-406 - Prohibiting Abuse from Third-Party Tax Auditors

. This legislation provides additional protections to businesses to ensure the auditing
process by third-party auditing and collecting firms is not overly burdensome.
Specifically, the law adds requirements and disclosures that have to be made by third-
party auditing and collecting firms when they are contracted by a municipality or county
government. It also requires the use of an independent hearing and appeals officer to
settle disputes between the taxpayer and third-party auditor and requires that a public
official or employee of the local government must sign the final tax assessment.

 


ZERO-BASED BUDGETING

. In order to bring a new level of scrutiny, transparency, and accountability to the
appropriations process, the Alabama House Republican Caucus began to implement a
new “zero-based” budgeting system. This revolutionary new process requires state
agencies to fully account for each dollar they receive, help identify ineffective programs
that are in need of elimination, and potentially save or re-direct substantial amounts of
taxpayer dollars.



HELPING CHILDREN


Act No. 2016-268 - Leni’s Law

. Expanding on the passage of Carly’s Law, which authorized a UAB study on using
cannabidiol (CBD oil) to treat seizure disorders, Leni’s Law ensures that the individuals
who use CBD oil for therapeutic or palliative relief have a defense against prosecution.
This legislation decriminalizes the purchase and use of CBD oil for people with certain
debilitating medical conditions; it also provides a defense for parents or legal guardians
possessing the oil for a minor under their care.


Act No. 2016-354 - Erin’s Law Revisions

. Protecting Alabama children is a top priority whether they are at home, in school, or in
foster care. This legislation results from recommendations by the Governor’s Task Force
on Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children formed in 2015. The law, among other things,
specifies a school employee distributing harmful material to a student, such as
inappropriate text messages, is a Class A misdemeanor; provides specific criminal
penalties for sexual offenses by foster parents against foster children; and adds a specific
definition for child abuse and neglect in mandatory child abuse and neglect reporting
provisions.


Act No. 2016-310 - Jason Flatt Suicide Prevention Act

. Endorsed by Alabama Head Football Coach, Nick Saban, this law requires that educators
receive extensive training on how to identify the signs of mental health illness that often
accompany suicide and the most effective means of offering help to these at-risk students.


Child abuse is a serious crime and deserves the most serious of punishments. Winston and Ava’s
Laws ensure that those who commit crimes against children are adequately punished.


Act No. 2016-43 - Winston’s Law

. Winston’s Law increases the penalty for aggravated abuse of a child less than six years of
age to a Class A Felony (mandatory 20 years to life in prison.) The law is named after a
four-year-old boy from Autauga County who was found drugged, beaten, and
unresponsive in the backseat of a car driven by his mother’s boyfriend.


Act No. 2016-29 - Ava’s Law

. This law strengthens the punishment for aggravated child abuse. Under Ava’s Law, a
person can now be charged with murder if they commit aggravated child abuse that
results in a child’s death.

 

PUBLIC HEALTH AND SAFETY


Act No. 2016-345 - Tax Deductions for Health Savings Accounts

. ObamaCare has led to increasing healthcare costs for individuals and businesses across
the nation, including Alabama. This legislation helps individuals and families by
providing more resources for individuals and families to pay for approved medical costs
and out-of-pocket healthcare expenses. Specifically, this law allows for a matching state
income tax deduction for contributions made to health savings accounts up to the amount
provided under the federal tax deduction (currently $3,350 for individuals and $6,750 for
families).


Act No. 2016-281 - Angelynn and Courtney’s Law

. Across the country, a new person is added to the waiting list for an organ donation every
18 minutes. In Alabama, 3,800 people are waiting on transplants. This law, inspired by
Angelynn and Courtney’s organ donation success story, requires the Alabama Law
Enforcement Agency (ALEA) to implement a statewide program to promote organ
donation through the application and renewal of driver’s licenses. ALEA must provide
pamphlets, brochures, videos, and other materials on organ donation at all driver’s license
offices as provided to them by the Alabama Organ Center or other state and national
groups promoting organ donation.


Act No. 2016-282 - Human Trafficking Safe Harbor Act

. Human Trafficking continues to be a major issue across the nation and in our own
backyard. This legislation comes as a recommendation from the Alabama Human
Trafficking Task Force whose goal is to stop human trafficking in the state. Specifically,
this law adds a Safe Harbor provision in current statute for a child who engages in the act
of prostitution. It prevents sexually-exploited children from being adjudicated as a
delinquent or be convicted of the crime of prostitution, instead, giving jurisdiction to a
juvenile court to ensure that the children have access to shelter, health care, and mental
health counseling.


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