March 1, 2024

Public Hearing Held for Gambling Bills

A public hearing was held on Wednesday regarding House-passed gambling legislation in the Senate Tourism Committee.

HB 151 and HB 152, by Rep. Chris Blackshear, R-Phenix City, were the subject of discussion during the hearing with seven speakers presenting their opposition to the bills. Speakers included Federation External Affairs Department Director Brian Hardin (right) and Whitney Haynes (above), a farmer and teacher from Cullman County who is participating in class VI of A.L.F.A. Leaders.

HB 151, a constitutional amendment, and HB 152, the enabling legislation, would legalize up to 10 Vegas-style casinos, sports betting, online betting and create a statewide lottery.

The Alabama Farmers Federation opposes all forms of gambling including casino gaming, state lottery, sports betting, electronic gaming and online gambling.

Haynes, a wife and mother of six, spoke about the risks gambling poses to her kids and pleaded with lawmakers to view the bills from her perspective.

"As a mother and educator I implore you, do not allow to prey on the already impoverished people of our state by dangling a lottery ticket in front of their noses," Haynes said. "In a day and age where we are pressed on every side to loosen our stance on a number of moral issues, there's a large group of people all across the country who crave to live a life that we are able to live here in Alabama."

Hardin reaffirmed the Federation's continued opposition while pointing to specific concerns with the legislation.

"The Alabama Farmers Federation's opposition to gambling is rooted in our members' beliefs," Hardin said. "Our members favor increased penalties for illegal gambling and greater accountability for local law enforcement. The 10 or more casinos, coupled with a lottery and sports betting on any smartphone, would discourage workforce participation, divert money from local businesses and tourism, increase addiction, and exacerbate crime and poverty."

Hardin urged Federation members to contact legislators to discuss concerns with the legislation and ask them to vote 'no.' Senators can be reached at the Voter Voice link below.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, visit the link below.

Gambling Hurts Alabama 
Voter Voice
HB 151 - Constitutional Amendment
HB 152 - Enabling Legislation

School Choice Legislation Passes House

Alabama lawmakers moved school choice one step closer to reality for parents of qualified students on Tuesday.

HB 129 by Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville (pictured right), passed the House by a vote of 69 to 34. This bill would create education savings accounts (ESAs) for parents to cover qualifying educational expenses. These accounts are designed to give parents education options for their children outside of local public schools assigned by residential zoning.

The ESAs created by the Creating Hope and Opportunity for our Students' Education (CHOOSE) Act would function as tax credits worth $7,000 per student transferring to accredited private or public schools, or $2,000 per homeschooled student with a maximum of $4,000 per family.

The bill would direct the Department of Revenue to create the CHOOSE Act Fund with a minimum appropriation of $100 million from the Education Trust Fund.

A substitute from the House Ways and Means Education Committee requiring private schools receiving tax dollars to share test scores with parents and report school-level assessment data with the Department of Revenue passed with a vote of 68 to 29.

House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, said students' ZIP codes shouldn't affect the quality of education they receive.

Rep. Garrett, chairman of the House Ways and Means Education Committee, said legislators are working to ensure better education options for students moving forward.

"The CHOOSE Act will provide families around Alabama another option, and I am proud of my colleagues in the House for voting to move this effort forward," Garrett said. "I commend Gov. (Kay) Ivey for making this her top legislative priority, and I am proud to sponsor a great school choice bill that is accountable and preserves the historic funding we are investing in public education."

The concept of school choice is supported by Alabama Farmers Federation policy which states: "We favor creative and innovative approaches to solving education's problems, thus we support a competitive 'voucher' program that allows parents to choose which school, public or private, would be best for their child."

HB 129 is now awaiting action in the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee.

A.L.F.A. Leaders Learn Inner Workings of State Government During Institute II

A.L.F.A. Leaders Class VI spent the week meeting with elected officials, touring state government institutions and learning how other agricultural organizations operate.

The 18-member class spent Tuesday learning the legislative process during visits with House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, Legislative Services Agency Director Othni Lathram and a host of legislators during lunch. The afternoon consisted of visits to the House and Senate concluding with a tour of the Capitol hosted by State Auditor Andrew Sorrell. The day finished with a legislative reception hosted by the Alabama Agribusiness Council.

Wednesday was spent meeting with Gov. Kay Ivey, attending legislative committee meetings and touring the Alabama Supreme Court.

The class visited with agricultural organizations based in Montgomery on Thursday including Alabama Cattleman's Association, Alabama Department of Ag and Industries, Alabama Forestry Commission, Alabama Forestry Association and Alabama Poultry and Egg Association.

Gov. Ivey Announces Funds for Broadband Expansion

Gov. Kay Ivey announced $148.3 million towards broadband expansion in underserved areas on Tuesday.

The funds will be distributed between 16 internet providers and expand services across 48 counties. The expansion will include over 5,000 miles of broadband infrastructure and is expected to service over 54,000 households, businesses and institutions.

Federation Director of State Legislative Programs Russ Durrance praised Ivey for her commitment to connecting rural communities through broadband access.

"Many farmers and others in rural communities are lagging behind many parts of the country because of lack of broadband access," Durrance said. "We're thankful to Gov. Ivey for recognizing this need and taking steps to make the internet accessible across Alabama."

Funding for the project will come from American Rescue Plan Act appropriations made by Gov. Ivey and the Legislature in 2022 and 2023.

Judge Bill Lewis to Serve on Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday announced the appointment of Judge Bill Lewis to the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals.

"Judge Lewis's distinguished record of jurisprudence ensures he will serve on the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals with honor and integrity. Throughout his esteemed legal career, he has consistently demonstrated a devotion to justice and fairness under the law. I look forward to his contributions on the Court," said Ivey.

Lewis will fill the vacancy left by long-time Judge William C. "Bill" Thompson, who retired on February 1, 2024, after serving on the Court of Civil Appeals for 27 years, including as its presiding judge for the last 17 years.

Judge Lewis has served as circuit court judge for the 19th Judicial Circuit in Elmore County since 2016; he currently serves as the circuit's presiding judge.

Read the Full Release Here

Montgomery County Farmers Federation Hosts Legislative Breakfast

The Montgomery County Women’s Leadership Committee hosted a legislative breakfast for elected officials Wednesday. 

Back row: Montgomery Co. Commission Chairman Doug Singleton, Rep. Phillip Ensler, Stacey Nestor, Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture & Industries Rick Pate, Montgomery County Farmers Federation President Kathy Gordon, Rep. Reed Ingram, Montgomery County Women’s Leadership Chairman Amy Belcher and Montgomery County Commission Vice Chairman Isaiah Sankey.

Front row: Toni Flowers, Teri Magdon, Jane Russell, Monnie Carol Carter and Alice Carter. 

The Montgomery County Women's Leadership Committee hosted their annual legislative breakfast Wednesday in downtown Montgomery.

Attendees heard from local elected officials regarding the legislative session and upcoming projects in the state and community.

Federation Director of Agricultural Legislation Preston Roberts reminded the group of the importance of speaking and working with elected officials.

"Opportunities like this provide great moments to express concerns or praise your elected officials and the job they're doing," Roberts said. "We want our members to develop good relationships with officials and encourage them to make Alabama better.

Bills in Brief

Lab-Grown Meat Prohibition Bill - SB 23 by Sen. Jack Williams, R-Wilmer, passed the Senate unanimously last Thursday. A public hearing is scheduled in the House Health Committee March 6. The bill would prohibit the manufacture and sale of cultivated or cultured meat products. The bill defines a cultivated meat product as one that is produced from cultured animal cells. “Lab-grown meat” or “cultured meat” is a developing product which is still being heavily researched. The process involves taking live cells from animals and then culturing those cells in a controlled environment to produce a food product. Farmers Federation policy opposes the labeling of any of these products as meat.

Agricultural Fencing Sales Tax Exemption Bill - SB 73 by Sen. Jack Williams, R-Wilmer, passed the Senate Finance and Taxation Education committee Wednesday with an amendment. SB 73 would exempt the sale of fencing materials used in agricultural livestock operations from the state sales tax. The amendment requires the purchaser to submit an affidavit confirming the agricultural use of the product to the seller. The affidavit would be made available by the Department of Revenue. The Federation supports SB 73.

Ballot Harvesting Prevention Bill - SB 1 by Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman, would make 'ballot harvesting' illegal in Alabama. The bill was voted out of the House Constitution, Campaigns and Elections Committee Wednesday. A vote by the full House is expected on Tuesday. 'Ballot harvesting' is when an individual pays someone for assistance in filling out an absentee ballot, which is linked to voter fraud. Proponents of the bill argued its necessity in securing Alabama elections. SB 1 is supported by Federation policy.

In Vitro Fertilization - SB 159 by Senator Melson, R-Florence, would provide civil and criminal immunity to persons providing goods and services related to in vitro fertilization except acts or omissions that are intentional and not arising from or related to IVF services. SB 159 passed the Senate Thursday with a vote of 28 to 4 with four abstentions.

It will be considered in the House Health Committee Tuesday. A similar bill, HB 237, by Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, passed the House Thursday by a vote of 94 to 6 with three abstentions.

Right-to-Repair - HJR 27 by Rep. Danny Crawford, R-Athens, praised AFBF for signing right-to-repair memorandums of understanding (MOU) with John Deere, Case IH, New Holland, Kubota, AGCO and CLAAS. The MOU's are an attempt to provide independent technicians and mechanics access to diagnostic and repair software formerly controlled by leading producers. After passing the House last week, the resolution passed the Senate Thursday and is awaiting the Governor's signature. Farmers having right-to-repair issues can report them at:

ESG Investment Prohibitions - SB 151 by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, would create an investment policy to prohibiting investments by certain state entities in financial institutions prioritizing environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria. The bill instead directs the State Treasurer and Board of Control of the Retirement System of Alabama and Teachers' Retirement System of Alabama to make investments that have a high likelihood of return without ESG criteria. SB 151 would also prohibit any state entity from considering ESG criteria when awarding a public contract wholly funded by state funds for the procurement of goods and services and the purchase of professional services and would require state entities to only consider pecuniary factors. This follows Federation-supported ESG legislation which passed during the 2023 Legislative Session.

Seafood Labeling - HB 66 by Rep. Chip Brown, R-Hollingers Island, would require food service establishments to display country of origin for seafood products, use correct/common names for products, and inform consumers if fish and shrimp are farm-raised or wild. HB 66 passed the House on Friday and is awaiting committee placement in the Senate.

Property Tax Cap - HB 73 by Rep. Phillip Pettus, R-Killen, would cap annual ad valorem tax increases at 5% for Class II commercial and business property and 3% for Class III residential, agricultural, forestry and historic property. Other Southern states have enacted similar measures. Between 2021 and 2022, the average Class III increase was 13%, with some counties seeing jumps of 20-42%. Federation State Legislative Programs Director Russ Durrance spoke in favor of the bill. “Our farm economy faces substantial challenges, with escalating input costs, depressed commodity prices, and high interest rates creating a financial squeeze for farmers,” Durrance said. “We believe this legislation offers a tangible solution to alleviate some of the burden farmers face to keep their operations running. A companion bill, SB 110 by Sen. David Sessions, R-Grand Bay, has been assigned to the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee.

Upcoming Events

The Joint Study Commission on Feral Swine is meeting Wednesday at 1 p.m.

The Legislature will reconvene on Tuesday, March 5, for day 13 of a possible 30 days. 

The House will convene at 2 p.m. while the Senate will convene at 4 p.m.

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Capitol Connection | Alabama Farmers Federation | (334) 288-3900 |


 Brian Hardin - Director, External Affairs Department

 Preston Roberts - Director, Agricultural Legislation

Russ Durrance - Director, State Legislative Programs

John Allen Nichols - Agriculture Counsel

Beth Chapman - Beth Chapman and Associates, LLC

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