Alabama Senate Republicans Successfully Pass 2016 Agenda

By Del Marsh & Greg Reed

The 2016 regular session of the Alabama Legislature concluded on May 4. Senate Republicans were successful in passing an agenda focused on spurring economic growth, encouraging excellence in education, defending unborn life, and protecting children and families.

Under this year’s theme of “Continuing Positive Progress,” Senate Republicans enacted a bold agenda for Alabama that includes the following items:

Education BudgetThe FY17 Education Trust Fund is the largest education budget since 2008. The $6.3 billion FY17 budget fully funds education and includes increases for textbooks and classroom materials, dual enrollment programs, and transportation. The budget also funds a pay raise for all education personnel, while increasing Alabama’s nationally-recognized Pre-K program by $16 million.

General Fund BudgetThe 2016 session was the first year of zero-based budgeting, designed to force state agencies to justify each dollar of their annual budget requests. The lean FY17 budget avoids new taxes, level-funds most state agencies, and includes small increases for Medicaid, Corrections, and Public Health.

Protection of Children & Families Senate Republicans passed the Jason Flatt Act , supported by Coach Nick Saban, to expand suicide awareness training & prevention in K-12 schools and took steps to stiffen penalties for the abuse of children under the age of six. Ava’s Law gives district attorneys the option of pursuing capital murder conviction for aggravated abuse of a child that results in a death (previously, manslaughter was toughest penalty available).

Safeguard Senior CitizensThe Senate moved to protect senior citizens from identity theft and financial exploitation with the passage of SB 220. If a financial broker or investment advisor suspects their senior citizen client is being financially exploited, the broker/advisor is required to promptly notify Senior Services and the Alabama Securities Commission.

Preserve the Sanctity of Human LifeThe Infants Dignity of Life Act forbids the sell of unborn infant body parts, while the Senate moved to protect unborn children from dismemberment abortions, in which surgical instruments are used to rip apart a fetus’s body, with an exception for the mother’s health. SB205 forbids the Department of Public Health from issuing or renewing licenses to abortion clinics located within 2,000 feet of a K-8 public school.

Recruitment IncentivesThe Alabama Renewal Act increases the availability of shovel-ready land sites for job creation through the Growing Alabama Credit & stimulates cargo traffic at port facilities with a new port usage credit. The Alabama Small Business Jobs Act creates a $1,500 new employee tax credit for businesses with 75 or fewer employees, if the new hire makes minimum of $40,000 (with an additional $1,000 tax credit if new hire was an unemployed veteran).

Economic Growth – To encourage companies to take on young or inexperienced workers, a $1,000 tax credit was established for companies to train apprentices for at least seven months (not to exceed five apprentices per company). HB109 allows Alabama taxpayers to deduct contributions to Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) on personal state tax returns, while HB37 is a Constitutional Amendment identifying Alabama as a right-to-work state, affirming the principle that employees cannot be forced to join a union as condition of employment. The Uniform Minimum Wage & Right to Work Act sets the federal minimum wage as Alabama’s state wage standard, thereby protecting businesses from dealing with dozens of differing local minimum wage levels and setting a predictable, uniform minimum wage to encourage job growth & expansion.

Leni’s Law Decriminalizes possession of medical marijuana oil for medical purposes. The law is named for Leni Young, a four-year old girl whose family moved from Alabama to Oregon to legally access medical marijuana oil for treatment of Leni’s epilepsy.

Led by President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper), the Alabama Senate Republican Caucus is comprised of 26 of Alabama’s 35 state senators. Its members include doctors, teachers, attorneys, and businessmen. They are committed to serving the public in a way that makes Alabama the best place in America to own a business, raise a family, make a living, and spend retirement.