April 21, 2015 - 8:30 a.m. - The Business Center of Alabama
2 North Jackson St. Montgomery, AL 36104

Sen. Phil Williams, R-Rainbow City
Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee Chairman



Action in the sixth week of the 2015 legislative session included advancement of an important pro-manufacturing bill known as innovator liability, a positive prediction by the Senate President Pro Tem regarding the Alabama College and Career-Ready Standards, and the Senate approving a $6 billion Education Trust Fund budget that contains increased funding for many Business Council of Alabama-backed education initiatives.

Senate Minority Leader Quinton Ross spoke to the BCA's Governmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday and addressed a healthy business climate. "When we talk in terms of job creation and success of small businesses and large, we all want our businesses to prosper," Ross said.




The Senate Education and Youth Affairs Committee on Wednesday favorably reported a bill that would repeal Alabama College and Career-Ready Standards. But Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said he does not see overwhelming support for it in the Republican Caucus. 


Senate Committee Votes to Repeal High Education Standards, But Bill's Future is in Doubt


The Senate Education and Youth Affairs Committee on Wednesday favorably reported a bill that would repeal Alabama's high standards set by the state school board five years ago. Voting 5-3, committee members favorably reported SB 101 by Sen. Rusty Glover, R-Semmes, to repeal Alabama's College and Career-Ready Standards.


Senators voting to keep Alabama's high academic standards were Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston; Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, D-Mobile; and, Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma


Voting to repeal Alabama's standards were Sens. Dick Brewbaker, R-Pike Road; Paul Bussman, R-Cullman; Shay Shelnutt, R-Trussville; Trip Pittman, R-Daphne; and, Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville.


Speaking to the Anniston Star, Marsh doubted the bill will clear the next hurdle. "I'm not hearing a groundswell of support, from my caucus, for this to be on the calendar," Marsh said.


Marsh said school standards first adopted in 2010 are the prerogative of the state school board, not the Legislature. The national math and English benchmarks are designed to ensure that Alabama students are on the same page as students elsewhere.

Following the vote, William J. Canary, President and CEO of the BCA, issued a statement saying that voters have already spoken on the issue.

"This issue was politically litigated during the 2014 election cycle and the verdict came back to leave our standards alone," Canary said.


The standards are benchmarks of proficiency in mathematics and English language arts that will better prepare Alabama students for success after graduation. When it comes to education, the BCA has a long history of supporting policies that put students first and will prepare them to enter college or the workforce.

Support for Alabama's standards is broad and far-reaching. To date, nearly 50 different groups representing everyone from businesses, to parents, to teachers, the military and more have signed on through Alabama GRIT to advocate for these high standards. For more information vist,


Read more on the BCA Blog.


BCA members are urged to contact their Senator and ask that he or she oppose SB 101 which would lower expectations for Alabama students and usurp the authority of the Alabama State Board of Education.


Use BCA Connect to immediately communicate with a legislator. BCA Connect includes complete listings of the House and Senate members, and catalogs all committees and their membership conveniently on your iPhone or iPad.

Education Trust Fund Bill Has Positives for Educational Programs Identified by Business Education Alliance Report


The Fiscal Year 2015-16 Education Trust Fund Budget, SB 179, breezed through the Senate without the contentious debate it usually generates. Senators passed it 33-0 after a low-key discussion that lasted about 90 minutes. The Senate version would appropriate about $68 million more than this fiscal year, according to a spreadsheet from the Legislative Fiscal Office.


The budget bill, sponsored by Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Daphne, chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee, included a number of programs identified in the Business Education Alliance of Alabama report Obstacles Into Opportunities that will boost Alabama's quality graduation rate.


Spending on pre-kindergarten would be increased by about $13.5 million, to $52 million. That would increase the number of classrooms by 145 and serve about 2,600 more 4-year-olds. Alabama's voluntary pre-kindergarten program has been recognized nationally for its quality standards but is not yet universally available.


Spending on student assessment would be increased by $6 million, postsecondary education-dual enrollment funding would more than double, from $5 million to $10.2 million, Distance Learning would be increased by $2 million, from $18.5 million to $20.5 million, and Advanced Placement funding would increase from $4.27 million to $4.77 million. At-Risk would receive $3.3 million more.


The Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative would be level-funded.

Two-Year College Separation Bill Advances in House Committee


The House Education Policy Committee on Wednesday approved SB 191 sponsored by Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Daphne. The bill would separate the two-year college system from the elected State Board of Education's oversight and place it under an appointed Alabama Community College System board of trustees. The non-paid members would be appointed by the governor.


The bill also would create a Workforce Development and Postsecondary Education Regionalization Task Force that would establish regions of the state for the governance and operation of the ACCS.


The Senate previously passed the bill 27-5.

BCA-Backed Senate Accountability Act Update Clears House Committee


The House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday favorably reported SB 71, the update of the 2013 Alabama Accountability Act. The Senate-approved bill would increase the statewide scholarship donation cap from $25 million to $30 million a year.


SB 71's author, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said if the bill becomes law the plan's offerings will increase and more reporting for scholarship-granting organizations would be required as well.


Some safeguard amendments were added in the House committee.


Rep. Phil Williams, R-Monrovia, said he doesn't want low-income students who receive scholarships to attend private schools under the act to lose that money if their parents' economic situation improves.


His amendment would increase the student eligibility for educational scholarships until and unless the annual income of his or her family exceeds 275 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $65,000 for a family of four. The Senate-passed version was 185 percent, or $44,123 for a family of four.


Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, amended the bill to prevent schools that serve special needs populations from being placed on the "failing" school list.


The law first passed in 2013 allows individuals and corporations to donate to scholarship granting organizations and receive tax credits up to certain amounts. The scholarship plan gives school choice to families who are stuck in a failing system and would otherwise not be able to send their children to a successful school.

The BCA supports this legislation.


House Member Named Chair of House-Senate Committee on Water Policy and Management


Rep. Alan Boothe, R-Troy, has been named chairman of the Legislature's Joint Committee on Water Policy and Management, a panel of senators and representatives charged with overseeing state rivers and other water resources.


"Water is the most important natural resource in Alabama and I'll do everything in my power to ensure it is well-protected in our state for years to come," Boothe said. "Water sustains our communities, maintains our wildlife, and supports industry and the economy, and I'm honored to chair this important committee."


The panel will oversee and develop a comprehensive plan to manage state water resources, including long-term sustainability of the water supply and efficient and effective distribution of water resources, intrastate and interstate water conservation strategies, and the use of technology and strategies for water resource planning.


The committee is comprised of seven state senators and seven representatives. Boothe's appointment is for the current quadrennium.

In an op-ed published in the March 2015 edition of Business Alabama magazine, BCA President and CEO William J. Canary stated that, "The business community has been on the forefront of developing responsible water policy for decades."

Please see the BCA Blog "Water Policy: A Business Perspective" for more information.

Senate Votes on Birmingham Water Works Board Bill


The Senate on Thursday passed SB 89, the Birmingham Water Works bill, by a vote of 26-6. SB 89 sponsored by Sen. Jabo Waggoner, R-Birmingham, would end the Birmingham City Council's exclusive control over board appointments. The bill would subject board members to provisions of the Alabama Ethics Law and limits their terms and compensation


SB 89 would expand the Water Works Board to include new members from Jefferson County and create two seats for other counties also serviced by the Water Works. The Birmingham City Council currently appoints the five-member board.


The bill goes to the House for assignment to committee.


Health Mandate Bills Advance From Senate Subcommittee


The Senate Health Subcommittee this week sent two health mandate bills, SB 295 and SB 296, to the Senate Health Committee for full consideration.


SB 295 would prohibit a private insurer and employer-sponsored benefit plans they administer from including cost of services in a quality rating system. SB 296 would prohibit a private insurer from being able to set costs of non-covered services of a dental provider for its contracts with those providers. 


The Health section of BCA's 2015 State Legislative Agenda states that, "BCA will actively oppose mandating employer-provided health care benefits or any legislation, resolution or regulation that would increase health plan costs."


This week, BCA's blog featured a story that explains how federal and state mandates increase the cost of health care coverage for businesses and employees.  "Health care mandates with the best of intentions will still have the consequence of driving up the cost of providing adequate health care coverage for Alabama employees. Rather, the appropriate forum for determining the fine print in health care agreements is between the parties involved, not the government."


Bill to Protect Manufacturers Closer to Becoming Law


The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday favorably reported SB 80 sponsored by Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster. The bill is on the House calendar awaiting consideration.


The bill and its House counterpart, HB 110 sponsored by Rep. Jack "J.D." Williams, R-Vestavia Hills, would restore Alabama's long-standing product-liability law and put us in line with the majority of states that have rejected the innovator-liability theory. The theory holds that a manufacturer can be held liable for a product that it neither made nor sold.


Rep. Williams' bill awaits third reading in the Senate.


Innovator liability has been important to Alabama manufacturers and economic development since 2013 and 2014 when Alabama Supreme Court rulings potentially opened up product tort actions against businesses that do not make a product. The House previously voted 88-7 to pass HB 110 and the Senate previously voted 32-0 to pass SB 80.


The BCA supports these bills that are part of its 2015 State Legislative Agenda. 

Here is a BCA fact sheet with more information.

Other Bills of Interest


HB 232 sponsored by Rep. Jack "J.D." Williams, R-Vestavia Hills, would increase the eligible amount-in-controversy in small claims court from $3,000 to $6,000. After House passage, the Senate Judiciary Committee gave the bill a favorable report. On Thursday, the bill's third reading was carried over at the call of the Senate chair.


SB 56 by Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Daphne, would prohibit any unilateral changes, including new rules or requirements implemented after signing by the state, to terms of a contract between a state agency and a party that provides services to the state during the contract period. The Senate passed an amended bill 31-0 last week and it was assigned to the House State Government Committee. 


Data Breach Legislation Reaches Senate Floor


On Tuesday, the Senate amended the substitute version of the data breach bill, SB 106 by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, passed the Budget Isolation Resolution, and carried the bill over at the call of the chair.


When the bill was originally introduced in March, many members of the business community expressed concern with certain provisions that would require businesses to notify the Attorney General and individual owners of personal information if a data breach occurs as well as impose certain fines, fees, and penalties on businesses.


Since that time, Sen. Orr has addressed many of the concerns of the business community in the committee substitute. The BCA will continue to work with Sen. Orr and members of the business community to ensure the bill does not have a negative impact on Alabama's job creators.


Billy Canary, president and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama, speaks with Ron Perkins, the Vice President of Doozer Software about the challenges small business face in securing their networks and some simple steps they can take to accomplish it.


In Addition to the BCA, the Legislative Council Doesn't Like Proposed Tax Move by ADOR


The Legislature's governing council consisting of representatives from both the House and Senate has written the Alabama Department of Revenue stating its disapproval of a DOR move that would tax film and television shows streamed online.


The Legislative Council's letter follows Business Council of Alabama comments that the ADOR's proposal to extend a "rental tax" to streaming content is inconsistent with Alabama law.


"In our opinion, the proposed regulation far exceeds the authority of the department by imposing a new tax, thereby intruding into the exclusive province of the Legislature," BCA President and CEO William J. Canary wrote Department Secretary Michael Gamble. "As you are aware, there is no provision in the Alabama Code that imposes a tax on streaming content."


Canary called on the ADOR to withdraw the proposed amended regulation.


The DOR proposes to impose the tax without going to the Legislature by saying that an existing tax provision can be extended to digital streaming. The Legislative Council's letter to the Revenue Department indicates that any attempt to push the proposal would be opposed, in effect, killing it.


House Speaker Mike Hubbard, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, House Speaker Pro Tem Victor Gaston, and Senator Jimmy Holley, R-Elba, the chairman of the Council, all signed the legislative letter.

"We have received concerns from several members of the legislature and other interested parties that the amendments may be overly expansive and may also be considered a new tax, in which case the Alabama Legislature would be the proper governmental body from which to make such a determination or enactment," the Council wrote.

Transportation Infrastructure Bank Bill Goes to Governor


SB 111 by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, would establish a Transportation Infrastructure Bank funded by a portion of existing gasoline tax revenues and vehicle registration fees. The bank would have the authority to issue bonds and provide loans or other financial assistance to government entities for certain qualified infrastructure projects. The bill has passed both the Senate and House and was sent to Governor Robert Bentley for his consideration on Tuesday. 



Dana Beyerle
Director of Communications
William J. Canary
President and Chief Executive Officer
Mark Colson
Senior Vice President of Government Affairs and
Chief of Staff
Anna Dobbins
Meetings/Events and Communications Coordinator
Leah Garner
Director of Government Affairs and Advocacy
Drew Harrell
Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of Strategic Operations
Nancy Wall Hewston
Vice President of Communications, Strategic Information and Federal Affairs
Nathan Lindsay
Vice President for Political Affairs, Regional Operations and Executive Director of ProgressPAC
Trevor Parrish
Legislative Policy Coordinator
Joshua Vaughn
Director of Visual Communications and Strategic Information
Victor Vernon
Vice President for Public Policy
Pam Ware
Manager, Government Affairs and Advocacy

For more information on the Business Council of Alabama contact