The 2014 regular session of the Alabama Legislature is in the books and the time for the Governor to “pocket veto” legislation has expired.
So, what were some of the primary accomplishments this session?
Of most importance, the appropriations bills for the General Fund agencies (HB235 – Act 14-284) and the Education Fund (SB184 – Act 14-456) were passed and the Governor has signed them into law. More on the details of the budgets will be coming later. With the Governor’s signature, the need for a special session is diminished.
Several bills dealing with restrictions on public assistance were enacted into law that; (1) requires drug testing (for recipients with previous drug issues), (2) prohibits use of public funds for alcohol, tobacco, gambling, and other non-essential items, (3) requires prospective recipients to show that they have applied for three jobs prior to receiving assistance and clarifies that a prospective recipient does not qualify for assistance if they left prior employment voluntarily or without good cause, and (4) makes the fraudulent use of public assistance a crime (for both the recipient and potentially the provider).
A bill (HB9- Act 14-399) was passed creating the Fair Ballot Commission whose purpose will be to provide the public with a fair and accurate explanation of statewide ballot measures. Sixty days prior to a vote, the Commission shall publish a Ballot Statement that shall include a plain language summary of the statewide ballot measure, the legal or constitutional authority of its passage, the effect of the statewide ballot measure if it is passed, including its cost and source of funding and the effect of the statewide ballot measure if it is defeated.
A constitutional amendment setting up a vote on the Sports Person’s Bill of Rights was adopted ((HB322- Act 14-286) that clarifies that the people of the state have the right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife subject to reasonable regulations that promote conservation and management of fish and wildlife and preserves the future of hunting and fishing. It further states that hunting and fishing by the public is the preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife.
An unemployment compensation bill (HB109- Act 14-436) deals with definition of an “employing unit” and would require ownership of at lease 65% of the business located in the State of Alabama to be responsible for providing unemployment compensation.
The “Revolving Door” bill (SB36- Act 14-440) was passed precluding public officials from lobbying their respective former legislative bodies for a period of two years after leaving public office. A legislative body includes the Alabama Legislature, county commissions and city councils.
A referendum allowing a 7.5% increase in property taxes will be on the ballot soon in Macon County. The bill (SB468- Act 14-310) was a local bill and the proceeds from the increase will go to fund the Little Texas Volunteer Fire Department. If this measure prevails at the ballot box, we will most likely see similar initiatives in other areas of the state. We will provide commentary on local bills that raise taxes at a later date.
What were some measures that did not pass?
Consolidation bills that promoted efficiencies in state government operations were introduced that did not get enacted. These included merging the Alabama Forestry Commission into a newly named Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Industries, merging Pardons and Paroles and eliminating the Alcohol Beverage Control Board and reorganizing the Alabama Legislative offices. We anticipate all these efforts to be renewed next year.
A bill promoting transparency in state government by removing the Examiner’s of Public Accounts from under the Alabama Legislature and placing its audit function in the office of the State Auditor had passed the House but died in the Senate.