March 28, 2024

Health Plan Movement Expected Next Week

Alfa Health Plan legislation is expected on the agenda in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee next week when the Legislature returns from spring break.

SB 232 by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, would allow the Alabama Farmers Federation to offer quality healthcare at a reasonable price. The committee held a public hearing last Wednesday regarding the legislation and a vote is expected Wednesday.

Members of the committee are Chair Shay Shelnutt, R-Trussville; Vice Chair Jack Williams, R-Wilmer; Ranking Minority Member Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham; Sen. Will Barfoot, R-Pike Road; Sen. Josh Carnley, R-Ino; Sen. Merika Coleman, D-Pleasant Grove; Sen. Chris Elliott, R-Josephine; Sen. Kirk Hatcher, D-Montgomery; Sen. Jay Hovey, R-Auburn; Sen. Andrew Jones, R-Centre; Sen. Wes Kitchens, R-Arab; Sen. Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro; Sen. Randy Price, R-Opelika; Sen. Dan Roberts, R-Mountain Brook; Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro; and Sen. Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills.

Federation External Affairs Department Director Brian Hardin said health plans are designed for members who don't qualify for employer health insurance or adequate federal subsidies.

"While not health insurance, Alfa Health Plans would provide comprehensive coverage comparable to major health insurers," Hardin said. "Many of our members, especially young farmers and small business owners, struggle to find affordable health coverage. Alfa Health Plans focus on providing coverage for those who fall in the gap."

SB 232 would allow the Federation to model the Alfa Health Plan after those offered by other Farm Bureaus. Tennessee Farm Bureau Health Plans (TFBHP) has been offering coverage to members since 1947. Farm Bureau Health Plans Executive Director of Governmental Affairs Ben Sanders said Tennessee plans cover all essential health benefits including preventative care, prescription drugs, maternity, hospitalization, emergency room services, newborn and pediatric care, outpatient surgery, mental health, substance abuse treatment, rehabilitation, and cancer care.

According to Sanders, health plans are individually rated, which controls costs. Health plan coverage is typically 30-60% less expensive than unsubsidized health insurance. TFBHP accepts about 90% of members who apply. Once accepted, members can't be canceled for claims history or change in medical status, Sanders said. Alfa Health Plans would be administered by a third-party administrator regulated by the Alabama Department of Insurance.

In addition to Tennessee, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota and Texas have enacted state laws to allow health plans. Five other states are currently considering health plan legislation.

Federation members are encouraged to contact their senators and ask them to vote "yes" on SB 232.

More information about Alfa Health Plans can be found in the "Closing the Gap" information sheet below and this week's Alabama AgCast. Senators can be quickly reached at the "Voter Voice" link below.

Closing the Gap fact sheet
Contact Your Senator - Voter Voice 

House Gambling Decision Pending

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives could decide the next step for the Senate's version of gambling legislation next week. 

HB 151, a constitutional amendment, and HB 152, the enabling legislation, by Rep. Chris Blackshear, R-Phenix City, would expand gambling in Alabama if passed by the Legislature and approved by voters.

The Senate versions were sent back to the House for concurrence March 7. They provide for a state-run lottery, the establishment of a gaming enforcement division and amnesty for existing gambling establishments operating under local constitutional amendments. Sites in Greene, Houston, Jefferson, Lowndes, Macon and Mobile counties would be “grandfathered” in and could continue operation. Those sites would be authorized to conduct live horse or dog racing and operate historical horse racing machines, which allow players to bet on historical races digitally. These machines are the functional equivalent of slot machines.

The legislation could also expand gambling on tribal lands under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The federal law allows Indian Nations to engage in numerous types of gambling activities on tribal lands. By authorizing a state lottery, Alabama would open the door for federal authorities to authorize the Poarch Band of Creek Indians to operate full-scale casinos on any tribal lands they currently possess or acquire in the future. Under this framework, Alabama could have numerous casinos across the state in addition to the state lottery.

Federation External Affairs Department Director Brian Hardin said this legislation will have long-lasting negative effects on Alabama.

“Gambling will hurt this state and its citizens in ways we can't understand,” Hardin said. “We want legislators to realize the harm this legislation will bring on their constituents."

If concurrence is not reached on HB 151 and 152, a conference committee could convene to address the issues. Those amended versions would be voted on by the House and Senate without opportunity for amendments. 

Federation policy opposes legalizing gambling in any form.

Members are urged to contact legislators and ask them to vote 'no' on any gambling legislation.

Alabama Ag Authority Awaiting Senate Vote

A bill leading to the creation of the Alabama Farm Center could be voted on by the Senate next week.

SB 219 by Sen. Shay Shelnutt, R-Trussville, would create the Agriculture Exhibition Center Corporation to operate the Farm Center. Cosponsors are Sens. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham; Dan Roberts, R-Mountain Brook; and Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills.

SB 219 gives the state Farm Center the same powers and abilities that county ag authorities already have under current law. It simply designates this entity as the statewide Farm Center to serve the entire state.

SB 219 was amended in the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee.

Federation Agricultural Legislation Director Preston Roberts thanked everyone who's worked to bring the Farm Center into existence.

"We appreciate Sen. Shelnutt, Sen. Smitherman, Sen. Waggoner and Sen. Roberts for their commitment to promoting agriculture in Alabama," Roberts said. "We look forward to working with more legislators as we move ahead."

Democrat Lands Flips House District 10

Democrat Marilyn Lands (pictured) won the special election for HD 10 in Madison County Tuesday.

Lands' election comes after Republican David Cole resigned from the Alabama House in 2023.

HD 10 covers the city of Madison, parts of Huntsville and quickly-shrinking rural land around Madison. The purple district was targeted by national Democrat donors as an opportunity to secure a win in deeply red Alabama. Lands campaigned on a pro-abortion message and criticism of the Alabama Supreme Court's ruling in favor of parents whose frozen (IVF) embryos were destroyed by a rogue hospital patient.

Lands prevailed over Alabama FarmPAC-endorsed candidate Republican Teddy Powell by a 62%-37% margin. Voter turnout for the special election was about 14.5%.

Lands, a mental health counselor, was sworn in Wednesday.

Bills in Brief

  • HB 327 by Rep. Alan Baker, R-Brewton, and a companion, SB 230 by Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Atmore, officially recognize an ownership interest in “pore space,” defined as small pockets of space located deep in the ground. These bills attach that ownership interest to the surface owner of the property. This legislation creates the right for the surface owner to sell that pore space and creates a new economic use of land (pore space) that was otherwise being unused. These bills also allow for carbon dioxide storage in underground pore space. The legislation provides for forced pooling of storage sites so long as at least 60% of the owners agree to have CO2 stored under their property. After 10 years and a set of inspections, title to the CO2 under the land would transfer to the State of Alabama. HB 237 is on the House State Government Committee's agenda for Wednesday at 3 p.m. The Federation has questions and is monitoring the bill.

The Legislature will reconvene on Tuesday, April 2, for day 18 of a possible 30 days. 

The House will convene at 1 p.m. while the Senate will convene at 2 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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