2024 Alabama Legislative Update: Regular Session - Week Two


On Thursday afternoon, the House of Representatives passed a version of the gaming legislation discussed in last week's legislative update. This legislation would bring a lottery, casinos, and sports betting to Alabama. The legislation now includes a 7 percent payment of lottery sales to retailers. It also requires 10 percent of sports betting revenue to go to Alabama Sheriff’s offices. Finally, the new version establishes restrictions on transferring gaming providers' licenses.  

Despite pushback from some Republicans, the legislation passed the two-thirds threshold in the House and will now go to the Senate for consideration. If two-thirds of the Senate vote to pass the legislation, it would then be sent to the citizens of Alabama as a proposed constitutional amendment on a general election ballot, which would need to be approved by a simple majority of the voters.   

Representative Chris Blackshear, the author of the gaming legislation, stated, "this was a true bipartisan effort from day one. . . and what we've learned from this was we were open, we are honest, we had difficult conversations, to understand where people are coming from." Governor Ivey commended the House on moving this legislation, saying, “I have long said the people of Alabama deserve to have another say on gaming, and today’s passage of HB151 & HB152 in the House is an important step forward and very significant, as this has not been accomplished by the House in years.” Senator Greg Albritton, a long-time supporter of gaming reform in the state, is optimistic about the legislation’s chances of passing the Senate.   

Ballot Harvesting 

On Tuesday, the Senate passed the “ballot harvesting” bill sponsored by Senator Garlan Gudger with a vote count of 27-8 along partisan lines. The bill will now go to the House for consideration, where it is expected to pass despite more partisan opposition.   

As mentioned in last week's legislative update, the “ballot harvesting” bill primarily focuses on prohibiting assistance in completing an absentee ballot in exchange for compensation. Specifically, it states that third parties, such as political operatives and campaign workers, who knowingly receive payment or gifts for activities related to assisting with completing absentee ballot applications would be committing a Class C felony. Additionally, individuals who knowingly provide payment or gifts to a third party for the same activities could face charges of a Class B felony.   

School Choice  

The school choice bill discussed in last week’s newsletter, known as the CHOOSE Act, received its first public hearing in the Senate this week. The CHOOSE Act would provide education savings accounts (ESAs) for parents to use in providing education services for their children.  

The bill was met with both support and opposition during the public hearing. Some education groups have expressed concerns regarding some aspects of the bill, including the lack of a cap on the annual state allocation. However, Senator Arthur Orr, the bill’s Senate sponsor, stated that a substitute version would address some of these concerns. On the other side of the discussion, school choice advocates applauded lawmakers for the legislation, noting that this bill provides an opportunity for families to make the best decisions for the children of Alabama. The committee did not vote on the bill and is awaiting a substitute. It is important to note that the final version of this bill must originate in the House for procedural reasons. The House version will be heard in committee at 9:00 AM on Wednesday (February 21).   

Cell Phone Filter  

Representative Chris Sells has refiled legislation requiring cell phone manufacturers to place filters on the phones, tablets, and other smart devices of minors sold in Alabama or face civil penalties. This legislation passed the House last session but died in the Senate. In the previous session, advocates of the bill stated that it protects minors, while opponents, including large cell phone carriers, noted that this requirement placed an undue burden on manufacturers. This bipartisan piece of legislation drew the interest of many proponents and opponents last session and is a piece of legislation to watch during the remainder of this session.  

Genetic Testing  

Legislation sponsored by Senator Arthur Orr proposes to make it a crime to collect, analyze, or transfer an individual’s DNA without the individual’s consent. The legislation does provide exceptions for criminal investigation and certain legal proceedings. It requires that individuals be informed of the results of any genetic tests they undergo in various scenarios, such as when applying for a job, a loan, credit, an educational opportunity, or certain types of insurance. Furthermore, this bill would prohibit health, life, and long-term care insurers from using the results of an individual's DNA analysis to make coverage and premium decisions. The Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Insurance would oversee the enforcement of these provisions. This bill is currently pending action in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee.  

Similarly, a separate bill, sponsored by Representative Chip Brown, proposes to require genetic testing companies to obtain express consent from consumers before they can retain, use, or share their genetic information with third parties. In addition, the bill imposes civil penalties for genetic testing companies that violate this requirement. The Office of the Attorney General would oversee the enforcement of these provisions. This bill received a favorable report from the House Judiciary Committee this week after some amendments were made, including a carve-out for requesting law enforcement agencies with a valid subpoena.   

Other Legislation to Watch 

In addition to the bills discussed above, here are some other pieces of legislation to watch in the upcoming weeks: 

  • Legislation defining sex-based terms sponsored by Representative Susan DuBose and Senator April Weaver. 
  • A bill requiring country-of-origin notifications on seafood products sponsored by Representative Chip Brown and Senator David Sessions. 
  • Public contract ESG legislation sponsored by Representative Chip Brown. 
  • The Education Trust Fund and General Fund Budgets. 
  • Legislation providing a distressed institution loan to Birmingham Southern College sponsored by Senator Jabo Waggoner. 
  • A mask mandate bill related to COVID-19, sponsored by Representative Brock Colvin.  
Status of the Legislature  

The legislature used three legislative working days this week, bringing its current total to six of its allotted thirty legislative working days  

As of February 16th, 188 bills were filed in the House, and 110 bills were filed in the Senate.   

The House and Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, February 20th, with the House session beginning at 1:30 PM and the Senate session beginning at 2:00 PM. Next week, the legislature is expected to use three legislative working days.

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