The BCA Governmental Affairs Committee will meet Tuesday, March 11, at 8:30 a.m. in the first floor auditorium of the Business Center of Alabama, 2 N. Jackson St., Montgomery. Our guest speaker will be Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey.

Contact Pam Ware for more information.

Add this event to your calendar




The Alabama Senate on Tuesday passed HB384, the Career-Technical Dual-Enrollment Program bill that is supported by the Business Council of Alabama. Sponsored by Rep. Mac Buttram, R-Cullman, HB384 will expand the existing state-supported career-technical education dual-enrollment program. 


It will allow businesses and individuals to contribute directly to scholarships to support two-year college programs and boost funding for technical training for dually enrolled high school students. Certain tax credits would be granted for qualified donations. 


The legislation is part of the Alabama Future Workforce Initiative. It received bi-partisan support, passing the Senate 33-1, as it did in the House. The bill was sent to Governor Robert Bentley who is expected to sign it into law. 


The BCA believes the legislation will help students gain the skills and education that employers need in critical technical, biotech, high tech, and research fields. 


"The business community in Alabama is, by far, the largest consumer of the product created by our state's school systems, so it is imperative that graduates possess the skills and education that the 21st century workplace demands," Business Council of Alabama President and CEO William J. Canary said. 


"Through career-technical dual-enrollment, students are ready to transition seamlessly into Alabama's workforce in a high-paying, high-demand job - in less than two years," Canary said. "Creating a scholarship program to increase the number of Alabama students who can participate in dual-enrollment is a no-brainer." 


The bill authorizes a tax credit of 50 percent of a taxpayer's personal or corporate donations to a dual-enrollment scholarship program for high school students who take skill-training or academic courses at two-year schools. The tax credit is not to exceed 50 percent of a taxpayer's income tax liability, and each taxpayers credit is capped at 500,000. The legislation would cap the scholarship fund at $10 million and donation earmarks to a school would be capped at 80 percent. The $10 million will allow 9,542 new students to participate in Alabama's dual-enrollment program. In 2013, only 2,100 students, 6.7 percent of the eligible 31,500 students, could participate. 


"An individual who may not have ever become a certified welder, with a scholarship now in place, this creates more opportunity for our family and citizens," Sen. Phil Williams, R-Southside, said during Senate floor debate. 


Another bill has been introduced in the Senate that would put Alabama students at risk and strip the State Board of Education of its authority to set high academic standards.  SB443 by Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, would allow local boards of education to opt out of the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards and adopt alternative standards and curriculum, thus creating a patchwork of educational standards in our state.  This legislation is based on the misguided assertion that the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards were forced on our state by the federal government.  In fact, the Alabama Standards were vetted by Alabama educators and school officials and voluntarily adopted by our State Board of Education. 


"SB443 amounts to a significant usurpation of power by the Legislature. It is simply wrong," said BCA President and CEO William J. Canary. "This is a political application at the expense of students and our future workforce. As we have said before, continued attempts by the Legislature to assume control of this issue, relegated by law to the State Board of Education, is the very definition of a government overreach."


It is important to note that local boards of education have not requested to opt out of the standards. In fact, the Alabama Association of School Boards has joined BCA and other coalition partners in opposing SB443.


SB443 is also opposed by Alabama GRIT, a coalition of Alabama parents, teachers, businesses, military officials, and other civic organizations. 


We expect a public hearing to take place next week in the Senate Education Committee. Legislators need to hear directly from you that this is a bad bill and the Legislature should not strip the State Board of Education of its authority to set high standards.

We are asking that you contact the senators who have signed on to SB443 and the Senate Education Committee members:


SB443 is sponsored by Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, and is co-sponsored by 12 others: Sens. Gerald Allen, R-Cottondale; Rusty Glover, R-Semmes; Bill Hightower, R-Mobile; Jimmy Holley, R-Elba; Del Marsh, R-Anniston; Shad McGill, R-Woodville; Trip Pittman, R-Montrose; Greg Reed, R-Jasper; Paul Sanford, R-Huntsville; Harri Anne Smith, I-Slocomb; Cam Ward, R-Alabaster; and Tom Whatley, R-Auburn.


Senate Education Committee
Dick Brewbaker, R-Pike Road; Quentin Ross, R-Montgomery; Gerald Allen, R-Cottondale; Slade Blackwell, R-Birmingham; Vivian Figures, D-Mobile; Bill Holtzclaw, R-Madison; Shad McGill, R-Woodville; Trip Pittman, R-Montrose; Hank Sanders, D-Selma, Del Marsh, R-Anniston 


Please contact these senators now and ask them to reject SB 443 and any legislative proposal that harms Alabama's standards or usurps the authority of the Alabama State Board of Education.


To get free instant access to legislators' phone numbers, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and email addresses, you can download our legislative directory app here: BCA Connect


Repealing the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards not only would be wrong for Alabama's students but also would send a signal to the rest of the country that Alabama wants to return to 1990s-level education standards instead of keeping modern, state-developed standards that prepare students to compete anywhere. 


For background information: 


Read the letter sent to each senator from BCA, the Birmingham Business Alliance, Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama, Huntsville/Madison Chamber of Commerce, Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, and Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce.


Read State School Superintendent Tommy Bice's Common Core Op-Ed on al.com


Read BCA President and CEO Billy Canary's Common Core Op-Ed on al.com


Read Op-Ed by Chickasaw City School Superintendent Kyle Kallhoff



The House on Tuesday concurred 94-1 with Senate changes to HB105, the Taxpayers Bill of Rights II bill, and sent it to Governor Robert Bentley for his consideration. HB105 sponsored by Rep. Paul DeMarco, R-Homewood, creates an independent Alabama Tax Tribunal whose judges will be appointed by the governor.


DeMarco's bill was substituted in the Senate. The substitute removed the original provision grandfathering the current tax administrative law judge in the new tribunal and removed the original provision creating a judicial nominating committee for future appointments.


"It's still a taxpayer's bill of rights," DeMarco said. "I think this does do what we need to do to give the perception of fairness. It is an independent tax tribunal that the citizens will have for the first time outside of the Department of Revenue."

For years, modernizing the original 1992 Taxpayers' Bill of Rights has been a significant goal of the business community. More than 30 states have independent tax tribunals for appeals by state and local government taxpayers.



The Senate on Wednesday passed SB262 by Sen. Shadrack McGill, R-Woodville, and sent it to the House where it was assigned to the Commerce and Small Business Committee. The bill, which the Senate passed 24-2, would exempt all individual tangible assets, excluding real property, with an original acquisition cost of $100 or less, from ad valorem taxation. McGill's bill originally called for an exemption of individual tangible taxable assets with an acquisition cost of $250 or less; however, lawmakers concluded that the loss of revenue produced by this exemption would be too great. McGill amended his bill on the Senate floor to decrease the exemption amount to $100. This compromise would decrease the amount of the bill's fiscal note and still allow businesses to exempt their low cost, taxable assets.


Rep. Greg Wren, R-Montgomery, is sponsoring the related HB108, which will create an online electronic filing system that will allow businesses to file annual business personal property tax returns at no charge to the taxpayer or to the taxing jurisdiction. The bill also would allow small-business taxpayers to file a non-itemized short form if: 1) the taxpayer has previously filed an itemized business personal property return showing the cost of the personal property assets totaling less than or equal to $10,000, and, 2) the total cost of any personal property assets acquired during the current year results in the total amount of the entity's personal property assets being less than or equal to $10,000. If both conditions are met, then the taxpayer must agree to a business personal property tax liability that is based on total personal property assets being equal to $10,000.


The House passed HB108 by a vote of 99-0. It's on the Senate calendar pending consideration.


The BCA supports both SB262 and HB108.



The House Ways and Means Education Committee held a public hearing on the Fiscal Year 2015 Education Trust Fund budget, SB184, which passed the Senate last week. The spending plan sponsored by Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, totals $5.916 billion, some $75.7 million less than the budget recommended in January by Governor Robert Bentley, and $114 million less than the amount budgeted for the current fiscal year. 


The Senate-passed budget: 1) holds spending to the appropriation cap authorized under the Rolling Reserve Act; 2) would repay by the summer of 2015 the $162 million balance owed to the ETF Rainy Day account, a top priority; 4) replace the 2 percent pay increase for K-14 educators as recommended by Governor Bentley, at a cost of $75 million, with a one-time bonus of 1 percent; and, 5) would reduce the appropriation to Alabama State University by $10 million from this year's budgeted amount.


Dr. Tommy Bice, the state superintendent of education, said the Senate-passed version shorts the K-12 Foundation Program; the transportation program was funded at 80 percent of the amount needed. Dr. Bice also mentioned that "other current expense," which funds support personnel and school overhead, would receive 85 percent of the amount needed. The Senate-passed version adjusts the class divisors by 0.5, which added $10 million to fund 50 to 60 additional teachers for middle-school grades. Dr. Bice expressed his thanks for the adjustment but also requested that the House budget committee make an additional investment of $10 million to further reduce classroom size in the middle grades where student achievement has been declining.


Dr. Mark Heinrich, chancellor of the Alabama Community College System, urged committee members to fund a 5 percent cost-of-living adjustment for faculty and staff of the postsecondary system. He said those employees did not receive a 2 percent pay increase last year. In addition, he said, it is difficult to retain faculty, especially in high demand careers.


The Pre-K Task Force was the one group that was relatively satisfied with the Senate-passed budget. It retained the $10 million increase to the Office of School Readiness for Alabama's 1st Class Pre-K Program. The Pre-K Task Force, of which the Business Council of Alabama is a member, requested an increase of $12.8 million, but the $10 million increase will allow for the expansion of Pre-K and add an estimated 100 additional classrooms to serve an additional 1,950 children.


Bob Powers, co-chair of the Pre-K Task Force and a BCA board member, conveyed the results of a study showing that 100 percent of children who complete Alabama's 1st Class Pre-K are reading-proficient in the third grade and that 1st Class Pre-K was shown to close the achievement gap of low income students by 25 percent.


Later in the day, Governor Bentley warned lawmakers that if the Legislature sends him an education budget without the 2 percent pay increase and without additional funding for teachers' health insurance, PEEHIP, he would return it with an executive amendment restoring the funding. 

The House Ways and Means Education Committee is expected to take up and vote on its own version of an education budget next week. The verbal "line in the sand" drawn by Governor Bentley added to the funding requests and the very real funding constraints that exist mean that major work and cooperation will be needed in the eight legislative days that remain in the session. 



The chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee said Tuesday that the Legislature is considering actions that could create business opportunities in Alabama. Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said the Legislature will begin discussing privatizing retail state liquor stores next year as one of several business-friendly options under consideration. "Having the state compete with private business does not make sense," Orr said.


Orr made the comments at the Business Council of Alabama's Governmental Affairs Committee meeting where he was joined by Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, chairman of the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee. Weekly BCA Governmental Affairs Committee meetings held during legislative sessions feature legislative and administration leaders who discuss topics of interest for committee members and receive updates on BCA activities.


Orr said ABC store privatization would involve only retail stores and not the Alabama Beverage Control Board's wholesale division. Last year the ABC Board operated approximately 173 retail liquor stores and netted $210 million in taxes and profits for state and local governments. Orr said ABC retail privatization legislation won't be pushed this year. "We want people to see it as a starting point," he said.


Other proposals include moving the Alabama Forestry Commission into the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, eliminating regional offices, and moving the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles operation, except for the appointed board itself, into the Department of Corrections. "There are some savings we can realize," Orr said. Other considerations include crowd-funding for small businesses, patent trolling legislation, and research and development tax credits.


Orr said the Alabama Securities Commission supports equity crowd-funding legislation that would make it legal for businesses to raise small amounts of money over the Internet much like political and non-profit groups are able to do. And patent trolling legislation seeks to prohibit costly lawsuits over alleged patent infringement. Orr said R&D tax credits will help not only businesses but also four-year universities. "It's a start ... and will draw more R&D here to the state," he said.


Also, Orr said, Alabama's industry incentive plan needs adjusting in order to attract more business. "Our state has to do something to incentivize projects," he said. The incentives could include a payroll tax credit for new jobs.


Clouse provided the back story by outlining the continued financial woes affecting the General Fund, the state budget that pays for non-education operations such as prisons, Medicaid, and state troopers.

Clouse said Medicaid continues to consume state dollars at an alarming rate. The combined state-federal medical insurance plan will need an additional $70 million next year, he said. Ten years ago Medicaid was 10 percent of the budget but this year it's 35 percent of the approximate $1.85 billion state General Fund budget. "It's squeezing everything else out," Clouse said.


The House Commerce and Small Business Committee on Wednesday on a voice vote favorably reported HB547 that is sponsored by Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham. HB547 would require contractors on public works jobs to pay their subcontractors within 10 business days of the contractor getting paid for completion of that portion of the contract. The bill goes to the full House for consideration.


The bill is related to HB24 by Rep. Bill Roberts, R-Jasper, that the House passed 96-0 on Feb. 26. HB24 would require public agencies to pay contractors working on public jobs within 35 days after the contracting agency has approved payment. The current payment deadline is 45 days.


The House Internal Affairs Committee on Wednesday held a public hearing but did not vote on the legislative oversight reorganization bill, SB11 by Sen. Jimmy Holley, R-Elba. SB11 would reduce the size of the joint House-Senate Legislative Council from 32 members to 20 members - 10 from each chamber - and replace three standing legislative committees with the new, 20-member Legislative Council.


The members of the Legislative Council would be members of the House Legislative Council and the Senate Legislative Council. Its duties would include overseeing House and Senate operations, setting employee pay, and overseeing legislative general administrative services. A substitute is expected.


The House State Government Committee on Wednesday favorably reported SB178 sponsored by Jimmy Holley, R-Elba. His bill that the Senate passed 23-7 on Jan. 22 was substituted by the House committee. SB178 would increase the time for consideration of a proposed state administrative rule change from 35 days to 60 days. The substitute would allow the Legislative Council to require certain administrative rules to be reviewed. If the Legislative Council disapproves a rule, the denial can be appealed to the lieutenant governor. If the lieutenant governor upholds the council's disapproval, then the proposed rule change returns to the agency. If the lieutenant governor approves the rule, the Legislature would be able to reverse the approval. The bill goes to the full House for consideration.


The 2012 Alabama Ahead Act that allows the State to issue up to $100 million in bonds for educational technology in the public schools was amended by SB1 that was sponsored by Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville. The Senate passed it Thursday 19-11. 


Dial's amendatory legislation: 1) allows the technology to be purchased and used in all public school grades (originally grades nine through 12); 2) requires local school systems that elect to participate in the program to provide matching funds of 25 percent, unless specifically waived by the State Superintendent of Education; 3) creates an advisory committee of key legislators and technical advisors to implement plans to purchase and use educational technology in the public schools; and, 4) clarifies that no further legislation is required to authorize the issuance of any bonds, but such bonds may be issued incrementally based on needs and the approval of the Finance Director. 

The original Act was also changed to ensure that any future bond proceeds would be used for three areas: 1) infrastructure readiness; 2) devices, digital content, debt service, management systems and support; and, 3) upgrades, expansion and maintenance. SB1 goes to the House for assignment to a committee.

This week, a substituted Regulatory Relief Act, SB355 by Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, received a favorable report from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Last week the House companion, HB475 by Rep. Jim Carns, R-Birmingham, received a favorable report from the House Commerce and Small Business Committee. Both bills are now in position to be considered by their respective houses. The bills would authorize counties or municipalities that are subject to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency municipal separate storm sewer system program to carry out requirements of the municipal separate storm sewer system program and the option to establish intercooperative public corporations for efficient compliance with applicable federal and state laws, rules, and regulations, among other provisions.

This week, the House voting 95-0 passed the drought bill, HB49 by Rep. Alan Boothe, R-Troy. HB49 was been referred to the Senate Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry Committee. This legislation would codify the Alabama Drought Assessment and Planning Team process that has been in place through executive order for more than a decade. The bill also would require the development of drought plans for water utilities and the State of Alabama.

This week, the House voted 88-9 to pass HB292, the landfill bill sponsored by Rep. Alan Baker, R-Brewton. HB292 was referred to the Senate Commerce, Transportation, and Utilities Committee. Prior to passage, the bill was substituted and amended to apply legal updates only to new solid waste facilities. The original version also would have applied to permit modifications. The bill would amend the Solid Waste Law, Section 22-27-48 of the Code of Alabama, to require a local governing body to affirmatively approve a new permit application for a solid waste disposal facility within 120 days, or the application would be deemed denied. The current law specifies that if a local governing body doesn't act on an application within 90 days, the application is considered approved. HB292 also would require that an applicant provide specific written documentation to be considered by the local governing body.

The House on Tuesday approved Senate Joint Resolution 35 sponsored by Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville. SJR35 would create the Alabama-Georgia Joint Legislative Committee. This committee would be charged with working with counterparts in Georgia to discuss and review issues that are common to both states. The resolution was passed by voice votes in both houses. The resolution was sent to Governor Robert Bentley for consideration.

A Senate wind energy bill that would regulate wind energy conversion systems and create a mechanism for removing abandoned systems was referred to the House Commerce and Small Business Committee. The bill was introduced in both the Senate and the House - SB12 sponsored by Sen. Phil Williams, R-Rainbow City, and HB106 sponsored by Rep. Becky Nordgren, R-Gadsden. The Senate passed the SB12 on a vote of 24-6 on Feb. 27. Nordgren's bill is also in the House Commerce and Small Business Committee. 

Dana Beyerle
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William J. Canary
President and CEO
Mark Colson
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Leah Garner
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Drew Harrell
Executive Assistant and Strategic Operations Coordinator
Nancy Wall Hewston
Vice President for
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Nathan Lindsay
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Victor Vernon
Vice President for
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Manager of Visual
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Pam Ware
Manager of Intergovernmental Affairs, and Advocacy

For more information on the Business Council of Alabama
contact Elaine Fincannon at elainef@bcatoday.org