The Alabama legislature will adjourn this week having completed 13 of its allotted 30 days for the 2017 General Session. They plan to take a couple of weeks off for spring break and will return on Tuesday, April 4.
The number one priority for every legislative session is to pass the appropriation bills necessary to fund state government. As such, this legislature is moving promptly as the General Fund Appropriations bill (HB155- Clouse) originated in the House and has moved through that body and now awaits consideration in the Senate Finance & Taxation General Fund committee. The Education Fund Appropriations bill (SB129- Orr) originated in the Senate and has moved from committee and is expected to be considered before the full Senate today.
The General Fund appropriation includes an increase of $800,000 for the Alabama Forestry Commission for FY18 which begins October 1, 2017. There is also a supplemental funding bill for the AFC (HB157- South) which will allow $550,000 to be drawn from the Emergency Forest Fire Fund to assist in funding for the current year’s (FY17) needs. We anticipate that an additional bill seeking further supplemental funding for the current fiscal year to be introduced soon.
In the area of fiscal responsibility and limited government, a bill to phase out the state’s involvement of the retail sale of alcoholic beverages (SB160- Orr) passed out of committee and awaits consideration before the full Senate.
A bill to increase the state’s fuel taxes is rumored to be introduced soon. The current discussion revolves around a 5 cent/gallon increase immediately and 2 cent/gallon increases in 2019 and 2021 for a total of 9 cents/gallon. Additionally, Washington County has introduced a local bill (HB362- Beech) that will set up a county wide referendum to increase fuel taxes by 2 cents/gallon and the creation of a 1% sales and lease tax. The proceeds will be earmarked for road and bridge construction. This bill has passed the House and awaits consideration on the Senate floor.
AFA is proposing legislation to clarify and modernize the forest products severance tax and the forest products manufacturer tax (HB313- Beech, SB244- Albritton). Both bills have passed out of their respective committees. We anticipate that HB313 will be addressed by the House during the week of the legislature’s return from spring break.