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Medical marijuana, tax incentives, 5G infrastructure among big bills in committee today

By Mary Sell, Alabama Daily News

Several significant and priority bills are in committee today, the Legislature’s first committee meeting day of the COVID-19-altered session.

All the meetings are expected to be live streamed as public access to the State House is limited. Video links can be found here.

At 8:30 a.m., the Senate Judiciary Committee meets for a 10-bill agenda that includes committee chairman Sen. Tom Whatley’s Senate Bill 97 to adjust the powers of the state health officer during pandemics like the one that hit the state last spring.

The committee will also consider Sen. Arthur Orr’s Senate Bill 30 to provide limited liability protection for businesses and other entities from lawsuits related to COVID-19. A public hearing is scheduled.

Sen. Tim Melson’s Senate Bill 46 to allow for medical marijuana in the state is also on the agenda, without a public hearing. The Senate last year approved a similar bill.

Senate Bill 36 from Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range, would change state pardon and parole law in an effort to try to ease the crowding in county jails by lessening the number of state inmates housed in them.

Also on the agenda are bills to prohibit racial profiling by law enforcement and allow home delivery of beer, wine and spirits.

That’s just one committee meeting, y’all!

The House Judiciary Committee also has a meaty 15-bill agenda for its 1:45 p.m. meeting. Included are two bills related to the state’s Habitual Felony Offender Act.

The House Ways and Means Education Committee meets at 2 p.m. today for two of the bills deemed priorities for passage in the first two weeks of the session.

House Bill 192 is revamping major economic incentives offered in industrial recruitment projects.  House Bill 170 specifies that federal COVID-19 relief funds received by individuals, businesses or organizations are not subject to state income tax.

The COVID tax bill also reduces Alabama’s corporate income tax rate and eliminates the federal income tax deduction for businesses. Bill sponsor Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, said the bill will make Alabama more competitive with surrounding states.

He described it as a reallocation of tax burdens and a reduction for businesses, but also a plus for the education budget.

According to a fiscal note on the bill, it would increase income tax receipts to the Education Trust Fund by about $12.95 million this year and about $12.75 million for each fiscal year thereafter. The Senate version of the same bill is in the Senate education budget committee this morning.

In the Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee this afternoon is Orr’s Senate Bill to regulate 5G cellular infrastructure across the state and put some limits on what municipalities can charge providers for access to city rights-of-way. This bill has been controversial in previous sessions.

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