Arise legislative update: Feb. 20, 2024

Arise’s Akiesha Anderson provides updates on all the bills that moved last week and previews what’s to come this week in the Alabama Legislature. Topics include a harmful bill that would create barriers to absentee voting, efforts to preserve child labor protections, the future of the state sales tax on groceries and the CHOOSE Act, which would redirect funding for public schools to private schools and homeschooling.

Full video transcript:

Hi there. Akiesha Anderson here, policy and advocacy director for Alabama Arise, and I am excited to be here today to give you your weekly legislative update and glimpse into what’s been happening in Montgomery.

On Tuesday, Feb. 20, the Legislature will gather in for this third week of the legislative session. Yet, what an eventful first two weeks they have had.

The second week of the legislative session, which ended last Friday, began with Arise staff showing up to the State House to testify against the CHOOSE Act, also known as SB 61. This is a piece of legislation that would divert a minimum of $100 million away from our public education system into private or home schools.

Last week, Arise also attended a grocery taxation commission meeting. This is a commission which I serve on, and at this meeting, I had the pleasure of presenting on Arise’s concern about the Legislature not taking steps to cut to cut the additional 1 cent off of the state-level grocery tax this year. This is alarming to us, especially considering that cutting this additional 1 cent would cost less than $100 million — or less than what the Legislature is trying to divert from the ETF via the CHOOSE Act.

Last week, we also saw an alarming piece of legislation, SB 53, that would remove some existing child labor protections and safeguards. This piece of legislation passed out of a Senate committee along with another piece of legislation, SB 62, which we are actually supportive of. SB 62 would remove the state-level tax from certain women’s hygiene and baby products.

Similarly, last week we saw that the House passed some significant legislation, specifically gaming legislation passed both out of committee and out of the full chamber of the House last week. And so if the Senate follows suit and passes this legislation similarly to what the House did, then everyday voters like you will likely see this issue on the ballot this upcoming November. This will be the first time if this passes out of the Senate that gaming has been voted on by the Alabama public in over a decade.

That’s a lot, right? Well, now that you’re up to date on what happened last week, I’ll go ahead and discuss what’s on the tap for this third week of the legislative session.

So this week, there are several pieces of legislation that will be in committee that Arise will be monitoring. Of concern to us include SB 89, which is an anti-loitering bill, SB 57, which is a anti-picketing bill, and HB 29, which is the House’s companion to the CHOOSE Act.

And so luckily, it is not all bleak and grim. There are also some good pieces of legislation slated to be heard in committee this week. And we will be monitoring those pieces of legislation as well. So for example, HB 64, which is a piece of legislation that makes curing and absentee ballot easier, will be up in committee this week.

And so will HB 63, which will authorize split sentences in certain instances. And so that’s a criminal justice piece of legislation that has come up in several past legislative sessions, and we are excited to see what happens with it this year.

Stay tuned. We will be sure to keep you posted. Definitely tune back in next week for another legislative update. I hope this helps. Later, y’all.