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Legislative Briefs for May 23

House passes bill establishing review process for school reading content

The Alabama House passed a bill Tuesday that, among other things, would establish a process for elementary school curriculum content to be reviewed and vetted before ending up in classrooms.

Sponsored by Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, House Bill 430 would mandate that the Literacy Task Force – an appointed body created to facilitate and implement provisions from the 2019 Alabama Literacy Act – review curriculum content to ensure its age appropriateness, and verify that it “reflects the core values of the state.”

The bill would also expand the task force’s size from 20 to 25 members.

“There have been since its enactment some questions, some concerns about some of the work that’s being done on that task force,” Garrett said on the House floor. “No one’s really been able to answer those questions. Content is going into a classroom without anyone reviewing it.”

The bill ultimately passed with a vote of 94-4, with three abstaining.


Increase to entertainment industry incentives gets House approval

A bill that would increase incentives for the entertainment industry in Alabama saw approval from the Alabama House on Tuesday.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jamie Kiel, R-Russellville, would expand the existing $20 million annual cap on tax rebates for entertainment industry expenditures to $50 million in late 2025. Designed to help Alabama rival neighboring Georgia, which has become a national hub for film and television production spending due to its own entertainment industry incentives, the bill’s Senate version was also received favorably in committee.

Since the inception of Alabama’s existing entertainment tax incentives in 2009, the state has awarded $97 million in tax rebates, $102.5 million in sales taxes, and $291.7 million in lodgings tax to the entertainment industry.

As originally written, the bill would have increased the cap to $150 million. It saw a considerably lengthy discussion when an amendment was offered that removed the cap completely. A majority of House members opposed that idea, saying it hadn’t been properly vetted.

Rep. Andy Whitt was particularly critical of the amendment, calling it “reckless and dangerous.”

House Majority Leader Scott Stadthagen, R-Hartselle, later proposed lifting the cap to $50 million instead of the original $150 million. The amendment was approved unanimously, with the bill itself passing with a vote of 100-1, with Rep. Ontario Tillman, D-Bessemer, being the sole no vote.


Bill increasing age at which person may be charged as a youthful offender narrowly passes House

On Tuesday, the Alabama House passed a bill that would increase the age at which an individual can be tried as a youthful offender.

Under existing law, individuals under 19 years of age facing criminal charges may be tried as a youthful offender, which, under certain circumstances, allows for reduced criminal penalties. Sponsored by Rep. Ontario Tillman, D-Bessemer, House Bill 436 would increase that age to 21 and under.

The bill saw no discussion on the House floor, though did see considerable opposition in terms of its final vote, ultimately passing 56-39, with three abstaining. The bill marks Tillman’s first piece of legislation to pass the House.


Bill prohibiting certain land purchases from countries “of particular concern” approved by House

The Legislature on Tuesday sent to Gov. Kay Ivey a bill to prohibit certain individuals, groups or governments from four countries from purchasing certain land in Alabama.

The countries “of particular concern” are China, North Korea, Russia and Iran, and the bill would prohibit government officials, political party members, or corporations affiliated with said countries from purchasing farm land, or land within 10 miles of either a military installation or critical infrastructure.

The bill was radically transformed last week in committee with an amendment, with the original bill prohibiting any Chinese citizen from buying any land in the state.

The bill passed in the House unanimously on Tuesday.

House passes pay increase for poll workers

A bill that would increase election inspectors and clerks’ pay by $50 passed unanimously in the Alabama House on Tuesday.

Sponsored by Rep. James Lomax, R-Huntsville, House Bill 435 would increase compensation for poll workers. Under existing law, election inspectors are paid at least $75 a day and clerks are paid at least $100 a day. 

Lomax said that this bill is a very important initiative to help with the shortage of poll workers. 

“They have not received a pay increase since George W. Bush was president and I was a sophomore in high school,” he said. 

He said that the bill, if passed, would go into effect in time for the 2024 election.

Lomax said that some counties pay their poll workers more than the state-required minimum.

The bill will now go to the Senate. 


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