March 8, 2024

Gambling Legislation Passes Senate, Heads Back to House

Controversial gambling legislation passed the Senate Thursday evening after a day full of debate and amendments.

HB 151 and HB 152 by Rep. Chris Blackshear, R-Phenix City, passed with votes of 22 to 11 and 23 to 10, respectively. Two senators were not present. Vote counts can be viewed below.

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

The Senate-passed versions of the bills are drastically different than House-passed legislation, with changes made in the Senate Tourism Committee and amendments from the Senate floor.

The bills would create the Alabama Gaming Commission and a stand-alone law enforcement division under the executive branch of the Alabama state government. These bills would also lead to the creation of a state-operated lottery; allow currently illegal gambling operations to continue operating legally; and obligate the governor to enter into a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PCI). The compact could allow for Vegas-style games at existing tribal casinos across the state and one additional site, so long as PCI receives federal approval for the addition of tribal land. A special election for the constitutional amendment would be held on Sept. 10, instead of the original date of Nov. 5, which is general election day.

Federation External Affairs Department Director Brian Hardin said despite the Senate's changes, the legislation still hurts the people of Alabama.

"Gambling legislation is bad public policy for this state," Hardin said. "Expanding gaming in Alabama will lead to increased crime, addiction and financial hardships along with a poorer quality of life for many who are already suffering. These bills take advantage of the impoverished and put many at risk, including our children."

Hardin expressed gratefulness on behalf of Federation members to those who voted 'no' on the bills.

"We appreciate everyone who voted 'no,'" Hardin said. "We're thankful for legislators who recognize the danger of these bills."

HB 151 and HB 152 will go back to the House for concurrence after a week-long break next week. Agreement is unlikely due to the changes made in the Senate. If the House of Representatives disagree with the changes, a conference committee will be created to develop a compromise.

Senators voting against Federation policy by voting 'yes' on HB 151 and HB 152:

Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Atmore

Sen. Will Barfoot, R-Pike Road

Sen. Billy Beasley, D-Clayton

Sen. Lance Bell, R-Riverside

Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville

Sen. Donnie Chesteen, R-Geneva

Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, D-Birmingham

Sen. Chris Elliott, R-Josephine

Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile

Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman

Sen. Kirk Hatcher, D-Montgomery

Sen. Jay Hovey, R-Auburn

Sen. Andrew Jones, R-Centre

Sen. Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro

Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence

Sen. Randy Price, R-Opelika

Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed, R-Jasper

Sen. David Sessions, R-Grand Bay

Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro

Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham

Sen. Robert Stewart, D-Selma

Sen. Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills

Senators voting in supporting Federation policy by voting 'no' on HB 151 and HB 152:

Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa

Sen. Tom Butler, R-Madison

Sen. Josh Carnley, R-Ino

Sen. Sam Givhan, R-Huntsville

Sen. Keith Kelley, R-Anniston

Sen. Wes Kitchens, R-Arab

Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur

Sen. Dan Roberts, R-Mountain Brook

Sen. Shay Shelnutt, R-Trussville

Sen. April Weaver, R-Brierfield

Sen. Jack Williams, R-Wilmer

*Sen. Merika Coleman, D-Pleasant Grove, and Sen. Larry Stutts, R-Tuscumbia, were not present.

CHOOSE Act Signed by Gov. Ivey

Gov. Kay Ivey signed the CHOOSE Act into law Thursday during a ceremony at the Alabama State Capitol.

Pictured with Gov. Ivey are students from Montgomery Christian School; Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee Chair Arthur Orr, R-Decatur; House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville; Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed, R-Jasper; and House Ways and Means Education Committee Chair Danny Garrett, R-Trussville. (Photo by Hal Yeager)

Highly prioritized school choice legislation became law Thursday after Gov. Kay Ivey signed the Creating Hope and Opportunity for Our Students' Education (CHOOSE) Act, which passed the Alabama Senate late Wednesday.

HB 129 by Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, passed with a vote of 23 to 9 with 3 not voting. The bill passed the House last Tuesday with several amendments. Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, carried the legislation in the Senate.

This policy was a priority for Gov. Ivey, whose office drafted the legislation.

The bill provides up to $7,000 tax credits for families to use on private schools or other education opportunities. Homeschoolers will receive $2,000 per student with a maximum of $4,000 per family.

Amendments included financial protections, giving priority to children of active-duty service members in priority schools (schools receiving a "D" or "F" grade on the state report card) and expanding accrediting agencies.

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. The Legislature must appropriate $100 million to the fund beginning Sept. 30, 2026.

The first 500 spots will be reserved for special education students. Qualifying families will be limited to those making less than 300% of the federal poverty level for the first two years. Afterwards, all families will qualify with priority given to active-duty service members after the first 500 spots.

In a written statement following the bills' final passage, Gov. Ivey praised legislators for providing new opportunities for Alabama students.

“Today, we’ve finally overcome the last hurdle in enacting Alabama’s historic education savings account plan after the Alabama Senate strongly approved the CHOOSE Act," Ivey said. "We want every Alabama student – whether they are at a public school, private school, magnet, charter or homeschool – the opportunity to receive a high-quality 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."

Peanut Day on the Hill

Gov. Kay Ivey recognized the work ethic and efforts of Alabama peanut farmers by proclamation during National Peanut Day on Tuesday.

Pictured R to L: The Medders Family, Gov. Ivey, Alabama Peanut Producers Association (APPA) President Carl Sanders, Tate Hataway, Auburn University's Crop, Soil, and Environmental Sciences Department Head Dr. Steven Hague, APPA Executive Director Libbie Johnson, Henry County Farmers Federation Board Member Thomas Adams, Pike County Farmers Federation President Billy Hixon, and Lee County Farmers Federation Board Member Garrett Dixon.

Alabama Peanut Producers Association (APPA) celebrated National Peanut Month with a proclamation from Gov. Kay Ivey at the Alabama Capitol and a peanut day at the Alabama State House on March 5, 2024.

“Peanut day at the Alabama State House helps remind our legislators that peanuts are an important crop for Alabama agriculture,” said APPA president, Carl Sanders. The peanut industry adds $200 million to the state’s economy. They are also an affordable, protein-packed snack.

Throughout the morning, APPA board members handed out jars of locally sourced peanut butter and peanuts to legislators and talked with them about topics concerning Alabama peanut farmers.

The double honey peanut butter was made from Alabama peanuts. The Medders Family, of Medders Family Farm in Shelby County, also attended the event.

As the day wrapped up, Sanders led the House of Representatives in the prayer at the beginning of their session.

Gov. Ivey’s proclamation recognized the peanut as the state legume of Alabama, as well as the impact the peanut industry has on the economy of the state, the farmers who grow peanuts, the nutritional value and environmentally friendly attributes. Gov. Ivey also received cans of peanuts from Sanders. 

Source: Alabama Peanut Producers Association

Read the Proclamation Here

Property Tax Cap Legislation Moves Forward

Legislation aimed at capping annual tax increases was reported favorably out of the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee Wednesday.

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 Class III residential, agricultural, forestry and historic property as substituted by the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee. 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%.

A companion bill, SB 110 by Sen. David Sessions, R-Grand Bay, has been assigned to the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee.

The legislation will be voted on by the House following next week's break.

Feral Swine Commission Seeking Solutions

Members of the Joint Study Commission on Feral Swine met Wednesday to discuss possible solutions. The commission is chaired by Sen. David Sessions, R-Grand Bay.

Bills in Brief

Lab-Grown Meat Prohibition Bill - SB 23 by Sen. Jack Williams, R-Wilmer, was reported favorably out of the House Health Committee Wednesday with a substitute. 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. Federation policy opposes the labeling of any of these products as meat. SB 23 is supported by the Federation and could be before the Senate as early as March 19.

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. SB 73 is supported by the Federation and could be before the Senate as early as March 19.

Ballot Harvesting Prevention Bill - SB 1 by Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman, would make 'ballot harvesting' illegal in Alabama. The bill was approved by the House on Wednesday after strong debate. SB 1 goes back to the Senate for concurrence. '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.

ESG Investment Prohibitions - SB 151 by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, would create an investment policy 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 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 has been assigned to the Senate Ag, Conservation and Forestry committee and is on the calendar for March 20.

Alabama Fire College Commission - SB 88 by Sen. April Weaver, R-Brierfield, would increase the members of the Alabama Firefighters' Personnel Standards and Education Commission from seven to nine. The bill would add one paid and one volunteer firefighter to the commission after amendment in the Senate County and Municipal Government Committee on Wednesday. The appointments would be made by the presiding officer of the Senate, and be approved by the full Senate. The bill now awaits action in the Senate.

ATV/UTV Titling - HB 233 by Rep. Jeff Sorrells, R-Hartford, would require every off-road vehicle manufactured on or after January 1, 2026, to receive a certificate of title at the time of purchase. This bill would also require dealers of off-road vehicles to obtain a master dealer license and would authorize the dealer to issue certificates of title for off-road vehicles. HB 233 was reported out of the House Financial Services Committee Wednesday. HB 233 is opposed as written by the Federation, but work is being done to address the concerns for agriculture.

Animal Disposal - SB 202 by Sen. Josh Carnley, R-Ino, would allow for the disposal of dead animals in accordance with rules adopted by the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries. Under existing law, animals that are killed or otherwise die must be burned or buried within 24 hours of death. This bill is on the Senate Ag, Conservation & Forestry Committee's agenda for March 20. A companion bill, HB 297 by Rep. Matthew Hammett, R-Dozier, was sent to the House Ag and Forestry Committee Wednesday.

Bovine Activity Liability - SB 164 by Sen. Randy Price, R-Opelika, would provide limitations of liability for certain actions taken by bovines and their owners. This bill is on the calendar for the Senate Ag, Conservation and Forestry Committee meeting March 20.

Upcoming Events:

  • March 11-15: Legislative Constituent Service Week
  • March 19: FFA Day on the Hill

The Legislature will reconvene on Tuesday, March 19, for day 16 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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