Daily News Digest – March 27, 2018

Daily News Digest – March 27, 2018

 Good morning! Sorry I’m late. Lots of news today. It’s Tuesday, March 27, and this is your Daily News.

1. Here we go: last days of session, part one

By this time 48 hours from now, the 2018 Regular Session will be done-zo. Well, at least we think so.

A few notes on timing…

  • Most everyone believes lawmakers will meet today and tomorrow and be done with it.
  • However, if they stay in session past midnight tomorrow, they make it so that any bill sent to Governor Ivey last week can’t be “pocket vetoed.”
  • That is to say, the governor would need to affirmatively veto or amend before midnight on Wednesday, or else it becomes law automatically.
  • Bills fitting that description include Sen. Greg Reed’sUAB Rural Hospital Resource Center and Rep. Elaine Beech’sbill to revise audit procedures for pharmacy benefit managers.

Big issues to watch…

Education Budget

  • A House-Senate Conference Committee to resolve differences in the Education Trust Fund Budget is scheduled for 11:00 this morning. They should report a bill out no problem.
  • That doesn’t mean the House and Senate will vote on it right away, though.
  • So long as the budget has not been transmitted to the governor, both chambers keep the legislative hurdle known as the Budget Isolation Resolution, which makes it harder for bills to pass. A lot of folks don’t want it to be easy for bills to pass.

Economic Development / Ethics

  • One of the most-watched bills this session has been HB317, the Alabama Jobs Enhancement Act.
  • The bill makes sure site selectors for the likes of Hyundai and Mazda-Toyota aren’t forced to register as lobbyists with the government, which could be enough to spook away potential projects.
  • The bill was amended in the House to satisfy some concerns, but critics remain, including Ethics Commission Director Tom Albritton.
  • Word is that talks are ongoing between top Senate leadership and the Governor’s office to see if there’s a path forward. A prolonged filibuster in the Senate could doom the bill.

Racial profiling 

  • Last week, the House adjourned with a bit of a sour taste in its mouth when failure to pass a racial profiling / data collection bill led Democrats to retaliate by filibustering Republican legislation.
  • That bitterness will likely spill into this week and could easily slow things down in both chambers unless lawmakers can come to some kind of agreement.
  • Go back and read Brian Lyman’s story on the racial profiling bill dust up to understand more.

Simplified Sellers Use Tax

  • Legislation to settle on a framework for sales and use taxes between local governments and out-of-state retailers has one last chance to pass the Senate.
  • Back in 2015, Alabama created the Simplified Sellers Use Tax program to allow out-of-state retailers like Amazon to begin voluntarily paying state and local sales tax, which is good for state/local revenue and a good legal bet for retailers.
  • But, there’s an issue with out-of-state entities who acquire property in state (Amazon recently bought Whole Foods).
  • County Commissioners are fired up and eager to see Rep. Rod Scott’s HB470 pass the Senate, but that probably won’t happen until an agreement is on discount and distribution amounts.

When posting legislative preview stories yesterday, I didn’t see Mike Cason’s latest. But it’s here, it’s thorough, you should read it.

And in case you didn’t read yesterday, here are preview stories from Brian Lyman at the Advertiser and Kim Chandler at the Associated Press (story HERE, bill roundup HERE).

2. Last days of session, part two

The prevailing narrative most of this session has been the lack of legislative drama.

I’ve contributed to that in this space, and most recently in my column on what a great budget year it has been in Alabama (thx Sand Mountain Reporter for publishing).

However, drama is starting to build around some “must-pass” legislation in these final days.

“Must pass bills”

  • That term gets thrown around a lot, but it generally refers to legislation that, if not acted upon, would cause a significant problem for state government and likely require a special session to fix.
  • Three bills fit that description at the moment: House Bills 321 & 322, which are Medicaid provider taxes for nursing homes and hospitals, respectively. If they don’t pass, Alabama’s Medicaid system will face a major shortfall and miss out on federal match money.
  • The third is legislation reauthorizing the State Pilotage Commission, without which the State Port Authority can’t really operate.
  • Sen. Trip Pittman wants to use this reauthorization process as an opportunity to reform the pilotage commission by changing its makeup.
  • He’s insisting that his reform language be part of any reauthorization bill, and he’s pretty serious about it.

Holding all the cards

  • Mr. Pittman, it so happens, chairs the Senate Finance & Taxation General Fund Committee, where the other two “must pass” bills are also awaiting action. 
  • Pittman appears to have the leverage to get what he wants on the State Pilotage Commission, especially with everyone wanting to go ahead and adjourn this week.
  • So, it looks like we could have some drama after all.

3. Special Election today

  • The special election for House District 21 is today. That was the seat held by Rep. Jim Patterson, who passed away last October.
  • Go read Paul Gattis’ story at AL.com for a good preview of the race.
  • So… we’re doing this again, huh? We’re holding a special election for a legislative seat just as the Legislature is preparing to adjourn for the term. And, this is like the third one this Spring.
  • Why do we keep doing this? These winners won’t even serve this term, right?
  • Well, not so fast.
  • What if Governor Ivey calls a special session on school safety? Her commission’s report is not due until late April, and the Legislature will be long gone.
  • What if, God forbid, there is another incident that compels her to call lawmakers back to Montgomery?
  • What if some of these “must pass” bills don’t pass, and there’s a need to reconvene the Legislature later this year?
  • Now, a special session is unlikely. I hate to even bring it up because I can just hear some of you throwing up in your mouth a little.
  • But, it’s possible, and if it happens some of these recent special elections (Montgomery Senate, Decatur House) might start to matter.

4. Campaign update

5. News briefs

  • Crazy news out of Dothan. Rev. Kenneth Glasgow, who you may remember for his work to restore felons’ voting rights, was arrested in connection with a Dothan murder yesterday. Read Michele Forehand’s story in the Dothan Eagle.
  • Alabama State Superintendent Ed Richardson is calling out local school leaders for not properly preparing students for college and careers. His point: when the college/career ready percentage is 66 percent and the graduation rate is 87 percent, there are obviously a lot of kids graduating who aren’t ready for the world. Read Trish Powell Crain’s story in AL.com.
  • The trouble for Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekincontinues. AL.com’s Kyle Whitmire got into his public records request and started digging into the numbers. They aren’t good for Entrekin. Read more.
  • Suburban voters (many women) unhappy with Trump might hold the key to the House majority this fall. That’s according to a really well done writeup by Washington Post reporters Kari Lydersen and Michael Scherer. Their analysis, which includes anecdotes from Alabama, basically shows that education attainment (whether or not you have a college degree) is playing a larger and larger role in our elections. It’s an instructive read you’ll find online HERE.

Headlines

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama lawmakers return for session’s final days. 

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama tax deadline extended for those impacted by storms. 

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Poll: Most Americans open to Trump’s North Korean talks

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – White House: no change “at this time” to Shulkin at VA.

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Birds flock to Alabama’s Dauphin Island for spring migration.

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Hubbard prosecutor endorses Martin for AG.

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Winner take all? Not if Electoral College critics win cases. 

MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Trial date set for officer charged with Gunn murder. 

MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Black colleges will get a funding boost. 

MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Cemetery security: theft, vandalism of final resting places. 

MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Usher, The Roots part of star-studded lineup for EJI memorial concert. 

AL.COM – JeffCo teen punished over tweets criticizing school walk out plan. 

AL.COM – Classes to resume at Jacksonville State University April 9.

AL.COM – Jacksonville State gives students option not to return to campus after tornado.

AL.COM – Rep. Mo Brooks to Gov. Kay Ivey: Widen I-565 in Huntsville.

AL.COM – Columnist John Archibald:  Dem gubernatorial candidate wants to make Alabama ‘good’.

AL.COM – State tax deadline pushed back 2 months for people in 27 storm-hit counties.

AL.COM – Alabama’s new method of execution has never been tried.

AL.COM – Ethics, racial profiling among Legislature’s last bills.

DECATUR DAILY – Remington, recipient of incentives locally, seeks bankruptcy protection.

FLORENCE TIMES DAILY – More SROs on the way for Lauderdale schools.

DOTHAN EAGLE – Kenny Glasgow’s capital murder charge based on Alabama’s complicity statute.

DOTHAN EAGLE – Activist Rev. Kenny Glasgow, another man charged with capital murder in Sunday night shooting.

WASHINGTON POST – Suburban voters angry with Trump threaten GOP’s grip on House.

WASHINGTON POST – Another prominent lawyer declines offer to represent Trump in Russia investigation.

WASHINGTON POST – Black man down — again.

WASHINGTON POST – How the Parkland teens became villains on the right-wing Internet.

WASHINGTON POST – Linda Brown Thompson, girl at center of Brown v. Board of Education case, dies.

NEW YORK TIMES – GOP-Led States Back Trump in California ‘Sanctuary’ Lawsuit

NEW YORK TIMES – After Stormy Daniels, Republicans Face a Referendum on Trump’s Conduct

NEW YORK TIMES – Despite Concerns, Census Will Ask Respondents if They Are U.S. Citizens

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