Tuesday Morning Legislative Leadership Committee Meetings
The BCA Governmental Affairs Committee will meet Tuesday, March 12, at 8:30 a.m. in the first floor auditorium of the Business Center of Alabama, 2 N. Jackson St., Montgomery. Guest speakers will be Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Paul DeMarco, R-Homewood, chair of the House Judiciary Committee.
Contact Pam Ware for more information.
President and CEO of the BCA, William J. Canary speaks to the committee at 17:20 mark.
SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE PASSES SB 286, OMNIBUS GUN BILL, DISREGARDING CONCERNS FROM LAW ENFORCEMENT AND THE BCA
On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, passed SB 286, the omnibus gun bill sponsored by Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, and Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville. With little warning, this National Rifle Association-backed bill was placed on the committee agenda late Monday afternoon and quickly passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday morning.
Offering testimony at the committee hearing, BCA President and CEO William Canary said, "After weeks of negotiating with representatives from business and industry, law enforcement, the plaintiff's bar, non-profits and the NRA, the Business Council of Alabama has no choice but to oppose SB 286 as currently written. At a time when the business community in all sectors should be focused on creating jobs, we instead are dealing with this unnecessary legislation which erodes the constitutional property rights of businesses. We have said from the beginning that in order to support this legislation, businesses must be immune from civil liability, the bill must apply equally to everyone in Alabama, and there must be an opt-in opt-out provision for businesses. None of the conditions presented by the business community have been met."
While addressing the committee, Sens. Beason and Bedford said their intent with the bill was to neither limit anyone's rights nor increase anyone's liability. In response, Canary stated that in his opinion, "...the [sponsors] have missed on both marks. They have eroded constitutional rights of others, and in fact, they will increase liability." BCA and representatives from law enforcement said they were still willing to work with the bill sponsors and the NRA to find middle ground and requested the committee carry the bill over. Sen. Linda Coleman, D-Birmingham, made a motion to carry the bill over, but the motion never received a second. A motion to give the bill a favorable report was then made by Sen. Phil Williams, R-Rainbow City, and seconded by Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn.
Voting in favor of SB 286 were:
Voting against SB 286 was:
For years, BCA has opposed any legislation, such as SB 286, which mandates that individuals must be allowed to bring firearms onto company/private property and offers no civil liability protections for the property owners. The BCA's 2013 State Legislative Agenda states that the BCA will actively oppose any legislation infringing on employers' right to provide a safe workplace by restricting unauthorized firearm possession on company property and/or creating any new causes of action against employers because of such policies. Private property owners have a constitutional right to set their own policies on their own property. We need less government interference between employers and employees, not more government mandates. "We are not anti-guns, we are certainly not anti-Second Amendment. There are 27 amendments in the [U.S.] Constitution, and we believe each one of them has equal opportunity, " Canary said.
To learn more on BCA's advocacy on this issue, visit our website to read: Guns in the Workplace - A Business Perspective.
The Montgomery Business Journal in its February 2013 edition profiled the BCA's ongoing efforts to protect employers' right to provide a safe workplace. The article quoted BCA President and CEO William Canary, "We believe strongly that people who run businesses and maintain businesses have an inherent property right and that is their right to make the determination of what's in the best interests of their employees within both federal and state law. And more importantly, how to protect their workers as best as they are capable at the workplace."
The article also quoted Anita Archie, senior vice president of intergovernmental affairs and advocacy, who asked "Tell us what is the problem that you need to come here and have this legislation? Our members are strong believers in the Second Amendment and always have been, so tell us why this legislation is necessary in the state of Alabama? If you can't give us a valid reason, then it's a political reason for doing it."
Click here to read the Montgomery Business Journal article in its entirety.
The Alabama Sheriffs' Association, District Attorneys Association and the Association of Chiefs of Police all opposed SB 286 on Tuesday. Click here to read an AL.com article outlining the concerns of law enforcement.
SENATE EDUCATION COMMITTEE POSTPONES VOTE ON COLLEGE AND CAREER READY STANDARDS
The Senate Education Committee on Wednesday morning carried over SB 190, the bill to repeal and defund the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards adopted by the State Board of Education in November 2010. Committee chairman Dick Brewbaker of Pike Road, the sponsor of the bill, carried the bill over to the call of the chair immediately after the meeting began.
Brewbaker, who last week told a joint House and Senate Education Committee meeting that the legislation would undergo several changes, explained to the committee that they have been working with the State School Board to change portions of the bill.
"Is this the bill that supporters are trying to falsely tie to Barack Obama?" asked Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, D-Mobile. "I think they are a little confused, because this common core issue was an initiative of the National Governors Association."
Brewbaker responded that he didn't think people were confused on the issue, but that he felt it was best to carry the bill over until there was more time to work on some of the issues with the State School Board. School board member Mary Scott Hunter was in attendance at the meeting and acknowledged that the board would be working with legislators on the concerns of those who did not want to see the standards repealed.
In November 2010, the State Board of Education affirmed new, tougher reading and math standards for Alabama students. The new standards required more critical thinking, problem solving, and teamwork instead of simple fill-in-the-blank memorization. Individual states were free to adopt the Common Core State Standards as their own, to adopt a modified version that incorporated the best of the Common Core while still allowing for individual state standards, or to reject the Common Core altogether. Following the moderate line, Alabama chose the middle option, and Alabama educators made key adjustments.
Chairman Emeritus of the Business and Education Alliance and retired State Superintendent Dr. Joe Morton spoke on behalf of the Business Council of Alabama at a public hearing on the issue last week. "The standards make good business sense," he told the committee. "In essence, this whole topic comes down to two E's: Economic Development and Education. If one of these bills becomes law, both economic development and education will suffer and job growth will be hurt."
"The Alabama College and Career Ready Standards are vital in preparing students to compete in the 21st Century global workforce which requires highly skilled workers," added BCA President and CEO William J. Canary. "Adoption of SB 190 and HB 254 would be a giant step backward, based on a false premise that Alabama and local school systems would lose control over their curriculum. While some will continue a campaign of fear on this issue, we will continue to stand united in the business, education and military communities in offering our children the hope of a bright future."
The BCA opposes the legislation to overturn Alabama's College and Career Ready Standards. We have set up a page on our website with more information on the standards and links to other resources.
SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: METHOD TO PASS ACCOUNTABILITY ACT WAS NECESSARY, JUDGE TEMPORARILY BLOCKS BILL'S TRANSMITTAL TO GOVERNOR
Senate Majority Leader Jabo Waggoner on Tuesday (March 5) told the Business Council of Alabama's Governmental Affairs Committee that the way the Senate
passed a controversial school flexibility and tax credit bill last week was necessary but he was ashamed of the unprofessional reaction by some senators.
Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills, said Senate majority Republicans with Gov. Robert Bentley's backing had to pass HB 84 the way they did because strong opposition likely would have killed it had the strategy been revealed beforehand.
The bill was returned to the House for technical adjustments but Montgomery County Circuit Judge Charles Price blocked its transmittal to Bentley with a temporary restraining order on Wednesday pending a March 15 hearing. Price's action was in response to a lawsuit filed by the Alabama Education Association in an effort to block the bill.
Waggoner touched on other Senate and national economic issues, but his explanation of the Senate's passage of a greatly modified school flexibility bill occupied most of his speech.
HB 84 by Rep. Chad Fincher, R-Semmes, originally the Local Control School Flexibility Act, had made its way openly through the legislative process. It emerged Thursday from a House-Senate conference committee triple in length, with a new name, and included a new income tax credit provision for parents who move their children from failing schools to non-failing public or private schools.
Opponents that included most Democrats and the state's largest teachers' union cried foul over the secretive tactics used to produce the newly named bill. Waggoner said Republican leaders felt they had to pass the bill the way it was passed.
"If it had been made public what we were doing with our strategy, and we had a strategy, it was well orchestrated who was going to do what and when it was going to be done, it would be like Nick Saban or Gus Malzahn giving their playbook to Les Miles at LSU the night before," Waggoner said of the Alabama and Auburn head football coaches, respectively. "You would have gotten beat had the loyal opposition known what would take place. We would not be successful."
Waggoner said something had to be done to break the cycle of failure for some students, especially dropouts, a cycle that did not appear to be ending. "The bill we passed Thursday probably is the most significant piece of legislation we passed in my tenure especially to education," said Waggoner, who has served in the legislature since the mid-1960s and the Senate continuously since 1990.
The BCA supported the flexibility bill.
After the House and Senate passed the HB 84 conference committee report, BCA Chairman Carl Jamison released a prepared statement: "BCA fully supports flexibility and although the conference committee added additional measures, any options for students in failing schools that create opportunities for them to succeed is better than the status quo. We hope all come together to move forward in a positive manner for children in Alabama. We applaud the governor and legislature for this courageous move tonight."
Late Monday the AEA filed its lawsuit and sought a restraining order to halt further legislative progress and prevent or delay it from reaching Bentley's desk. Waggoner said the bill may need amending.
Waggoner said that he was ashamed of the reaction by some in the Senate, a reaction that was unrestrained, loud, and chaotic, to the bill and the method used to pass it.
"I have seen outbursts before, some unprofessional actions in the Senate (but) I really think this was the worst," he said. "I thought it was very unprofessional, disrespectful of the presiding officer, disrespectful of the reputation of the Alabama Senate."
Waggoner said as a member of the former Republican minority, he knows what it's like to be beaten politically.
"I know how to act when you get beat, you're beat, you go to your seat, you lick your wounds and move on," Waggoner said. "And that was not done Thursday night."
Waggoner said most of the Senate leadership's bills have been passed, including various government agency consolidation bills that are designed to streamline services and save taxpayers money.
He said national economic conditions since 2008 are still driving much of the government streamlining process, especially Medicaid and prisons that absorb $1 billion of the state's $1.7 billion General Fund.
MEDICAID BILLS CARRIED OVER FOR TECHNICAL FINE-TUNING
The House Ways and Means General Fund Committee on Wednesday carried over three Medicaid bills that were written to help transform Medicaid in a more efficient and affordable health care network for recipients and taxpayers.
Rep. Greg Wren, R-Montgomery, a member of the committee and sponsor of the Medicaid bills, asked to postpone action on HBs 370, 371, and 372, so at least one of the bills can be revised. The committee voted to carry over the bills sponsored by Wren.
"They'll be ready in probably another week," Wren said. Wren is chairman of the Joint Legislative Committee on Medicaid Policy.
The Business Council of Alabama supports efforts to reform Medicaid in order to control costs, address fraud and abuse, and ensure access to quality health care.
State Health Officer Dr. Don Williamson, chairman of Gov. Robert Bentley's Medicaid Advisory Commission, outlined the current state of Medicaid that received one-third of the state's $1.7 billion General Fund appropriation this fiscal year.
Medicaid in its current state is growing at an additional rate of about $100 million a year. The commission recommended regional, community-based managed care for Medicaid recipients.
BCA President and CEO William J. Canary on Wednesday sent a letter to Gov. Robert Bentley endorsing the recommendations outlined in the Commission's final report.
HB 370 would cap General Fund appropriations for Medicaid contingent on passage of legislation establishing proposed Patient Care Case Management Networks across the state.
HB 371 would require Medicaid to seek a waiver from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to increase Medicaid recipient co-payments for health care services.
HB 372 would abolish the legislature's Medicaid Joint Interim Committee and the Permanent Joint Legislative Committees on Medicaid Policy and would create the Permanent Joint Medicaid Committee.
Bentley created the Medicaid Advisory Commission in October. His goal is to reform Medicaid by improving financial stability and patient care.
Williamson said the current Medicaid system encourages expensive hospital emergency room utilization and doesn't encourage physician and patient interaction to improve health. "My goal is to change Medicaid where appropriate to get different outcomes," Williamson said.
TECHNOLOGY OVERSIGHT LEGISLATION NEARS FINAL PASSAGE
The House on Thursday passed an amended Senate bill that would create a cabinet-level Secretary of Information Technology and a legislative oversight committee for state technology. SB 117 is sponsored by Sen. Phil Williams, R-Rainbow City.
The House passed the bill 61-30 along party lines. Because the bill was amended to exempt the Alabama State Port Authority, it goes back to the Senate for consideration. Colleges and universities governed by separate boards of trustees also would be exempt from the law's provisions as would municipalities. The Senate passed SB 117 by a vote of 32-0.
If the bill becomes law, an eight-member Permanent Legislative Oversight Committee for Information Technology would be created. The oversight committee would oversee operations of the cabinet secretary whose job would be to develop a four-year strategic plan for state agency information technology. The new agency would provide non-education IT support similar to the support provided by the Alabama Supercomputer Authority to education.
The oversight committee would consist of chairs of the House and Senate General Fund and Education appropriations committees, two members appointed by the Speaker of the House, one senator appointed by the Senate president and one member appointed by the Senate President Pro Tem. Committee members would name a chair and vice chair.
Williams has a related bill, SB 116, to create the Alabama Technology Authority. It passed the Senate and is in the House Committee on Technology and Research. The authority would develop and implement an information technology plan for executive branch agencies currently served by the Division of Data Systems Management.
AMENDMENT TO STRENGTHEN ALABAMA'S STATUS AS A 'RIGHT TO WORK' STATE PASSED BY SENATE
SB 41, by Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, passed the Senate on a vote of 21-10 after a cloture vote to end debate prevailed. The bill proposes a constitutional amendment that affirms it is the public policy of the State of Alabama that the right of persons to work may not be denied nor diminished by an employer or a labor organization due to union membership or non-membership. This bill has been assigned to the House Committee on Commerce and Small Business.
BCA President and CEO William J. Canary told the Associated Press after the vote, "The BCA strongly supports Alabama's right-to-work status for its benefits to economic growth, industrial recruitment and job creation. Existing industries and companies looking to potentially locate here can be confident that Alabama will remain a business-friendly state."
The BCA supports this legislation.
This week, the Irrigation Tax Credit Bill, SB 204 by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, was reported favorably from the House Ways and Means - Education committee. This legislation makes three revisions to the original bill that was passed last year. First, the amendment reduces from 10,000 to 8,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) the size of a water body that qualifies for a tax credit without building an off-stream reservoir. This revision will open farm land in portions of the Upper Tombigbee, Warrior and Coosa Rivers. Second, it allows a farmer to spread the tax credit over five years. Lastly, at the request of the Department of Revenue, the amendment would add language to describe how the tax credit is distributed amongst members of a partnership that own a farm. The end result of this bill would be to encourage more withdrawals from major rivers for the purposes of irrigation.
YOUR BCA ADVOCACY TEAM
Anita L. Archie
Senior Vice President
and Legal Advisor,
Manager of Communications
William J. Canary
President and CEO
Chief of Staff and
Executive Director, ProgressPAC
Nancy Wall Hewston
Vice President for
Communications, Strategic Information and
Political Affairs and
Vice President for
Manager of Visual
Manager of Intergovernmental Affairs, and Advocacy
For more information on the Business Council of Alabama
contact Elaine Fincannon at email@example.com