March 22, 2013

Tuesday Morning Legislative Leadership Committee Meetings (NO MEETING MARCH 26)

The BCA Governmental Affairs Committee will NOT meet next Tuesday. Our Tuesday Morning Meetings will resume on April 2nd, when we will hear from Senate Health Chairman, Greg Reed, R-Jasper, and House Health Chairman, Jim McClendon, R-Springville.
BCA President and CEO William Canary and Senior Vice President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Advocacy Anita Archie join Governor Robert Bentley and Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield at the launch of the "Made in Alabama" campaign. The campaign features the new Commerce Department website,


Governor Robert Bentley on Thursday signed into law two government-efficiency measures along with an executive order ordering the Department of Transportation to manage the state's motor vehicle fleet.
Bentley ceremonially signed bills to consolidate state police functions and to create an Information Technology cabinet position. He said the efficiency measures were part of his pledge to accomplish $1 billion in taxpayer savings.
"Our goal since taking office has been to make government more efficient while saving taxpayer dollars," Bentley said. "These measures I am signing today will all help us achieve greater efficiency."
In a Capitol ceremony, Bentley signed SB 108 by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, that will consolidate state law enforcement functions. The new law creates the Alabama State Law Enforcement Agency headed by a secretary of law enforcement whom Bentley will appoint.
The agency will consist of a Department of Public Safety and a Department of Investigations. The law consolidates law enforcement functions of more than 20 state agencies or departments beginning Jan. 1, 2015. Effective immediately the Department of Homeland Security is merged into the State Law Enforcement Agency.
Bentley also signed SB 117 by Sen. Phil Williams, R-Rainbow City. It creates a cabinet-level Secretary of Information Technology to oversee purchasing, management, and use of information technology in state agencies. "Right now there's very little coordination when it comes to information technology," Bentley said.
Bentley said the Secretary of Information Technology, whom he also will appoint, will identify ways to save money and improve I.T. network coordination. A legislative oversight committee will review the secretary's performance.
Bentley's executive order establishes an Office of Fleet Management and a fleet manager within the Department of Transportation. The fleet manager will assess the state's vehicle fleet and develop and implement plans to save money through purchasing, maintenance, and fuel efficiency, Bentley said.
Bentley did not attach a dollar amount to the expected savings but said his administration has already identified and implemented measures that will save at least $750 million for taxpayers. Marsh previously said law enforcement consolidation could save $26 million a year when fully implemented.

The Business Council of Alabama's Board of Directors voted to support improved government efficiency and accountability as a requirement for supporting the Sept. 18, 2012, constitutional referendum on shifting money from the oil and gas Alabama Trust Fund to the state General Fund.

The chairman of the House Health Committee on Tuesday said that proposed Medicaid reforms could position Alabama to expand Medicaid and accept billions of federal dollars that would accompany an expansion.
"I can see in the future if we can get a grip on this program and get it under control, I can see we can accommodate additional recipients in the Medicaid program," said Rep. Jim McClendon, R-Springville.
McClendon made his comments after a joint House-Senate public hearing on SB 340 by Sen. Greg Reed, R-Jasper. SB 340 would reform Medicaid and authorize up to eight Medicaid service areas using private companies to provide managed patient care. The committee did not vote.
Governor Robert Bentley said he opposes expanding Medicaid in its current fee-for-service form. On Wednesday, he told a Pickens County leadership group Medicaid will become an outcome-based program. Bentley has not said if he would agree to expand Medicaid if it is reconfigured into a fiscally responsible system.
McClendon described the conditions under which Medicaid could expand. "I would say if we can get a grip on Medicaid it would be worth reconsidering for all of us, the governor, and legislature, and taxpayers, too," he said.
The Business Council of Alabama supports Medicaid reform in order to control costs and ensure long-term sustainability. The BCA supports improving efficiency, addressing fraud and abuse, and ensuring access to quality health care.
Medicaid, a combined state-federal medical program, serves about 938,000 Alabamians. The Legislature appropriates one-third of the entire $1.7 billion General Fund to Medicaid. Its financial need grows by about $100 million a year.
Expanding Medicaid could result in 250,000 new recipients and an additional $1 billion a year in federal spending for Alabama, according to a study by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
"That billion a year is a tremendous economic incentive to a state that is notably business friendly and to add to that the additional stimulus, those additional jobs, those facilities, that income, it definitely would not be anything but positive on the overall economy," McClendon said.
Success of a reformed Medicaid would depend heavily on passage of HB 371 by Rep. Greg Wren, R-Montgomery, and whether the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services allows Alabama to increase Medicaid recipient co-payments for health care. HB 371 and two other Medicaid-related bills by Wren, HBs 370  and 372, were referred out of committee last week.

Without revisions to Medicaid, legislators fear expansion will bankrupt the budget. "Under the current conditions we're not in a position to try to deal with any more patients," McClendon said.
McClendon and Reed conducted Tuesday's public hearing on Reed's bill that should start moving after legislators return from their spring break the week after next. "We know we have a system that needs to be improved," Reed said. McClendon said he would introduce a House version.
State Health Officer Dr. Don Williamson, who is Bentley's point-person on Medicaid, said supporters include, besides the BCA, the Alabama Nursing Home Association, the Alabama Hospital Association, and the Medical Association of the State of Alabama. Citizen advocacy organizations such as Alabama Arise support positive Medicaid revisions.
Williamson said the bill would create a new Medicaid system of managed care by regional care organizations or alternate care providers in to no more than eight geographic regions. Each region would have to be capable of supporting at least two regional care organizations or alternate care providers.
Bentley created a Medicaid Advisory Commission last year. Last week he accepted the commission's  nine recommendations. The commission recommends dividing Alabama into service regions with regional care networks that would contract with commercial managed care organizations.
McClendon said patient care is of paramount importance and Medicaid finances need to be fixed.
"Quality service is foremost in every statement that we've made," McClendon said. "The cost of it is growing almost like an infection and we've got to do something on getting it under control on behalf of the taxpayers."

The K-12 subcommittee of the House Education Policy Committee met on Wednesday afternoon where Rep. Jim Barton, R-Mobile, asked committee members to approve HB 254, a repeal of the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards.  The issue has garnered a lot attention in the last few weeks, with the Senate Education committee killing the effort in the upper chamber last week, and the House committee following suit this week.

"At the end of the day, we're all trying to get to the same place that is best for children's education," Barton said.  "I'm not trying to second-guess the State Board of Education, but we want to get to that point without the interference of the federal government."

Rep. Mac Buttram, R-Cullman, informed the subcommittee that he was prepared to bring forth a substitute that would be identical to the sub presented last week in the Senate Education Committee by Sen. Bill Holtzclaw, R-Madison.  Under Holtzclaw's sub, the State Board of Education could not cede control of Alabama's curriculum to any entity outside of Alabama and that the data sharing portion of the bill would be protected but could only be used for legitimate education purposes.  When it comes to adopting new standards in the future, Holtzclaw's bill would have required a public hearing on new standards to be held in each State School Board district, which is common practice.

Before the subcommittee took any action, three supporters of the legislation were each allowed five minutes to testify despite having already testified once at the first joint public hearing on the bill earlier this month.  Wednesday's meeting was not a scheduled public hearing, and State Superintendent of Education Tommy Bice was allowed to answer questions in opposition to repealing the standards.

"The goal of the common core is to destroy conservative values and tear down the Republic," said Sharon Sewell, a retired teacher who also served on the state's school textbook committee.  "This is ungodly, socialist and communist.  Barack Obama has Bill Ayers's best interests at heart, not our children.  We are sacrificing our children with common core."

Sewell's testimony elicited puzzled reactions from members of the subcommittee and many in the audience, who could not understand her claims, as Alabama is not a federal "Race to the Top" state. Alabama establishes its own curriculum, and classroom teachers create their own lesson plans. 

Rep. Elaine Beech, D-Chatom, visibly fed up with demagoguery against the common core, made a motion not to give the bill a favorable report which was seconded by Rep. Phil Williams, R-Huntsville.  By an almost unanimous vote, the subcommittee chose not to move ahead with the effort to repeal the standards.

BCA opposes any attempt to repeal Alabama's high academic standards.  For more information on what the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards actually do and do not do, we have set up an information page on our website which includes links to the standards themselves.

SB 41, by Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, received a favorable report from the House Committee on Commerce and Small Business and moved another step closer to being placed on a statewide election ballot.  The bill proposes a constitutional amendment that upon ratification by the voters would affirm 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 is now on the House regular calendar and in position to be taken up by the full House.

The BCA supports this legislation.

The House Ways and Means Education Committee on Wednesday approved a red-tape reduction bill that Alabama contractors say will help simplify the tax-exemption process for many public works jobs.

On a voice vote, the committee approved a substituted HB 419 by Rep. Paul DeMarco, R-Homewood, and sent the measure to the House. HB 419 would require the Department of Revenue to issue certificates exempting sales and use taxes for eligible contractors and subcontractors who buy material that is used in certain public works projects.

The Business Council of Alabama is monitoring the legislation. If the bill becomes law, it would take effect for contracts signed Oct. 1 or later.

Road, highway, and bridge projects would not be eligible, and only contractors and subcontractors licensed by the State Licensing Board for General Contractors would be eligible.

Currently, government entities that are eligible for sales and use tax exemptions issue work orders for construction material, pay for the material, and then get the exemption. Purchases currently are exempt only if the governmental entity designates the contractor as a purchasing agent and pays for the material itself, the bill's fiscal note says. The bill would extend the exemption directly to eligible contractors.
The Alabama and North Alabama Chapters of Associated Builders and Contractors said the bill would not change eligibility for tax exemptions but would reduce administrative costs on public works projects.
"Unanimous support in Ways and Means [Wednesday] morning shows that both parties can certainly agree when a bill is best for businesses in Alabama," DeMarco said in a statement.
The Legislative Fiscal Office said the bill could reduce tax receipts to the Education Trust Fund and to local governments by as much as $2.5 million each depending on the number of projects that don't use the current exemption method and on the value of the  building material.
Anita L. Archie
Senior Vice President
and Legal Advisor,
Intergovernmental Affairs,
and Advocacy
Dana Beyerle
Manager of Communications
William J. Canary
President and CEO
Mark Colson
Chief of Staff and
Executive Director, ProgressPAC
Nancy Wall Hewston
Vice President for
Communications, Strategic Information and
Federal Affairs
Nathan Lindsay
Director of
Political Affairs and
Regional Operations
Victor Vernon
Vice President for
Public Policy
Joshua Vaughn
Manager of Visual
Communications and
Strategic Information
Pam Ware
Manager of Intergovernmental Affairs, and Advocacy

For more information on the Business Council of Alabama
contact Elaine Fincannon at