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Legislature back with busy second week

The Legislature is back in Montgomery today for its second week of the session. Action begins at 12:30 p.m. with the Senate education budget committee taking up two of the early priority bills.

House Bill 170 by Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, specifies that federal COVID-19 relief funds received by individuals, businesses or organizations are not subject to state income tax. It also makes other reforms to Alabama’s corporate tax code, including changing the current double weighted sales factor to a single sales factor and making statutory changes that prevent the Trump tax cut law from unnecessarily impacting incentives for new and expanding industry. The bill cleared the House Ways and Means Education Committee Wednesday, passed the full House Thursday by a unanimous vote. Sen. Dan Roberts, R-Mountain Brook, is the Senate sponsor.

House Bill 192 by Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, reauthorizes and revamps the state’s economic development laws.The bill increases the annual caps on the Alabama Jobs Credit and its sister Investment Credit by $25 million in both 2021 and 2022, taking it from $300 million to $350 million. It also increases the cap on the Growing Alabama Credit from $10 million to $20 million. The bill also offers tax breaks to automakers who will ship vehicles out of the Port of Mobile, which is a big deal considering the Alabama Port Authority is building a $60 million automotive terminal that will allow for vehicles to roll on and off of ships. It also creates new incentives for women- and Black-owned businesses. Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed, R-Jasper, is the Senate sponsor.

The meeting can be watched here

The House reconvenes at 1 p.m. today. You can watch a live video of the House’s proceedings HERE.

Here is a look at some of the bills on the special order calendar.

PTSD compensation for first responders

A bill that would require cities and county governments to reimburse for certain co-payments related to post traumatic stress disorder treatment for law enforcement officers and firefighters will be considered in the House on Tuesday.

House Bill 212 from Rep. Matt Simpson, R-Daphne, is meant to help first responders get the necessary help they need, Simpson said.

“It’s to combat the ongoing mental health crisis that we have and the number of suicides we have in law enforcement and firefighters as well to bridge that gap and get treatment to those who definitely need it,” Simpson told ADN.

The bill also allows for first responders to receive up to 24 months of disability benefits if they are unable to work due to their condition.

The bill has 23 co-sponsors including House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia. The legislation has also received support from the Association of County Commissions of Alabama, the Alabama League of Municipalities, the Alabama State Fraternal Order of Police and the Professional Fire Fighters of Alabama.

Post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental disorders are not covered under Alabama’s workers’ compensation laws.

Simpson said he hopes in the future the law can be extended to also help volunteer firefighters and dispatchers but the definition of dispatcher can vary across the state.

“It’s a priority to add dispatchers in the future,” Simpson said.

Consumer Protection during natural disasters

House Bill 27, also sponsored by Simpson, would enhance the criminal penalties for home repair fraud that occurred during a state of emergency to a Class C felony.

Simpson said the bill is meant to help protect Alabamians from bad actors entering the state after natural disasters damage homes.

“This protects our citizens and protects our people from being victims of someone who comes in and preys on them by faking that they have a licensee or pressuring them into these services to get something off their home,” Simpson said.

The bill creates the Alabama State of Emergency Consumer Protection Act and can involve anyone whose home received more than $10,000 in damages.

The Mobile and Baldwin counties delegation co-sponsored the bill and the same legislation passed the House last year with a 97-2 vote, but the coronavirus pandemic prevented it from moving to the Senate.

Other Bills:

House Bill 24 from Rep. Jim Hill, R-Moody, would allow for certain individuals convicted of a nonviolent crime prior to Oct. 1, 2013 under the Habitual Felony Offender Act may be eligible for resentencing.

House Bill 116 from Rep. David Standridge, R-Hayden, would authorize a one-time post-election audit after the Nov. 8, 2022 general election. The audit would involve three different counties and would be conducted on only one statewide office and one county office in each of the three counties.

House Bill 79 from Rep. Phillip Pettus, R-Killen, would modify the Tier II retirement benefits for state police to receive full benefits after 25-years of creditable service.

Another bill sponsored by Pettus, House Bill 81, would allow hazardous duty time to be calculated for in-service death benefits for firefighters, law enforcement officers and correctional officers even if they have not reached 25 years of service.

House Bill 17 from Rep. Rex Reynolds, R-Huntsville, would allow local police to tap phone calls and online communications without involving federal law enforcement if there is probably cause to believe the person involved “is committing, has committed, or is about to commit certain felony drug offenses.”

The Alabama attorney general would have to approve the wiretapping.

Rep. Andy Whitt, R-Harvest, Rep. Proncey Robertson, R-Mt. Hope, and Rep. Shane Stringer, R-Citronelle, are co-sponsors on the bill.

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