Capitol Notes: School Choice, IVF Services Protection & Gambling Legislation under Consideration

School Choice Bill Passes House with Modifications

Gov. Kay Ivey’s top education priority, the CHOOSE Act, received a passing grade from the Alabama House of Representatives this week. The robust school choice bill passed with a vote of 69-34, but faced some opposition from both Democrats and a handful of Republicans.

Key Points:

  • The bill allows families to receive public funds via education savings accounts to use for various educational expenses, including private school tuition.
  • An amendment requires private schools receiving these funds to share student test scores with parents and report data to the state.
  • The bill would initially be funded through supplemental appropriations, not impacting the main education budget.
  • Eligible families could receive up to $7,000 per student for public school alternatives, while homeschool families could receive up to $2,000 per student or $4,000 per family.

The bill now moves to the Senate for further consideration.

Lawmakers Pass Bills Protecting IVF Services
Both the Alabama Senate and House have quickly passed identical bills aimed at protecting in-vitro fertilization (IVF) services following a controversial court decision.

The Issue:

  • A recent Alabama Supreme Court ruling declared frozen embryos created during IVF to be legal children.
  • This caused uncertainty and potential legal risks for both patients and providers.

The Bills:

  • Sponsored by Sen. Tim Melson and Rep. Terri Collins, the bills offer criminal and civil immunity to anyone involved in providing or receiving IVF services, in case of embryo damage or death.
  • These bills passed with overwhelming support, 34-0 in the Senate and 94-6 in the House.

Next Steps:

  • The bills are expected to be reviewed in committee next week.
  • Passage of one of the bills is likely, followed by a quick signing by Gov. Ivey.

Negotiations on Gaming Legislation Continue in the Senate
Senators are still debating the proposed constitutional amendment and enabling laws that would allow Alabamians to vote on a lottery and up to seven casinos.

Key Developments:

  • The Senate Tourism Committee held a brief public hearing on Wednesday but adjourned without a vote. A planned Thursday meeting was also canceled.
  • Sen. Greg Albritton, leading the legislation, acknowledged that multiple versions are being discussed to address concerns from different groups.
  • The complex political landscape means compromises might be needed to secure the 21 votes necessary for the constitutional amendment to pass.
  • Any changes made by the Senate would require approval from the House, potentially leading to further negotiations.

The Senate is expected to hold committee and possibly floor votes on the legislation next week.

Ethics Reform Legislation Discussed in House Committee
Rep. Matt Simpson’s
ethics reform proposal, HB227, was the subject of a public hearing on Wednesday. Alabama Ethics Commission Director Tom Albritton addressed the committee as an opponent to the legislation. The proposal would substantially rewrite much of the current ethics law, including specifying that violations of criminal provisions would be under the jurisdiction of the attorney general and district attorneys. The Ethics Commission’s role would be limited to handling civil, non-criminal matters. The committee chaired by Rep. Simpson will revisit the bill next Wednesday.

Bill to Aid Birmingham-Southern College Clears Committee Hurdle
A proposal to change the process for granting loans to struggling private colleges (with Birmingham-Southern being the primary focus), passed committee on Wednesday. However, it faced more opposition than a similar bill last year that enjoyed near-unanimous support. The bill now includes an amendment requiring an independent financial assessment of Birmingham-Southern from a bank that is not currently a creditor of the college. The bill is awaiting a vote by the full Senate. Sen. Jimbo Waggoner, who controls the Senate’s daily schedule as chairman of the Rules Committee, informed his colleagues that they can expect the legislation to be debated on the Senate floor next week.

Yesterday, the Legislature concluded its 12th day out of a maximum of 30 legislative days. They will return next Tuesday.

Other bills currently being tracked by our legislative team include:

Bill Sponsors Title Last Action Latest Version
SB 187
Linda Coleman-Madison


Digital assets, regulates digital asset operations (Banking and Insurance)

Companion bills: HB 214

Senate • Feb 29, 2024: Pending Committee Action In House Of Origin (Banking and Insurance) Introduced
SB 151
Arthur Orr


State Investments and Public Contracts; to prohibit State Treasurer and Board of Control of RSA and TRSA from using ESG factors in investment decisions; may consider pecuniary factors; to prohibit state entities from considering ESG factors when awarding public contracts

Senate Calendar: Regular Calendar (March 05, 2024)

Position: 38

Senate • Feb 28, 2024: Read Second Time In House of Origin (Finance and Taxation Education) Introduced
HB 242
Ben Harrison


Anti-discrimination against military. (Judiciary) House • Feb 27, 2024: Pending Committee Action In House Of Origin (Judiciary) Introduced
HB 227
Matt Simpson


Ethics; laws pertaining to public officials and public employees revised (Ethics and Campaign Finance)

On the agenda • House Ethics and Campaign Finance standing meeting

Mar 06, 2024 10:30am

Room 807

House • Feb 22, 2024: Pending Committee Action In House Of Origin (Ethics and Campaign Finance) Introduced
HB 214
Mike Shaw


Digital assets, regulates digital asset operations (State Government)

Companion bills: SB 187

House • Feb 21, 2024: Pending Committee Action In House Of Origin (State Government) Introduced
HB 205
Prince Chestnut


Retail establishments; banning cash as payment source prohibited, exceptions provided (Commerce and Small Business) House • Feb 20, 2024: Pending Committee Action In House Of Origin (Commerce and Small Business) Introduced
HB 61
Chip Brown


Public contracts; ESG criteria prohibited in public contract. (State Government) House • Jan 30, 2024: Pending Committee Action In House Of Origin (State Government) Introduced