Thus far, the Republican-controlled Alabama Senate has delivered on multiple agenda items that leadership planned to address headed into the 2022 regular legislative session.
The first major piece of legislation the body ushered through the legislature was a $772 million package appropriating the state’s share of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) COVID-19 relief funding.
The package made considerable investments in an array of funding categories including health care, broadband, infrastructure, telemedicine, first responders, rural hospitals, county reimbursements and the unemployment insurance trust fund.
The state in the coming months will receive an additional $1.06 billion from a second round of ARPA funds.
Expanding high-speed internet access across the state was one of the most significant priorities of the legislature prior to the start of the session. A series of bills passed the Senate earlier this month aimed at streamlining the broadband expansion process.
The legislative package included a proposed constitutional amendment providing the state and local governments with the legal authority to grant federal award funds or any other funds specified for broadband infrastructure to public or private entities to expand broadband services.
The Senate passed a number of bills to provide tax relief for individuals, small businesses and farmers.
Upper chamber lawmakers acted to shield Alabama families from an $87.7 million state income tax increase stemming from expanded tax credits instituted by Congress in pandemic relief legislation. The tax relief bill has been signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey.
For individuals age 65 or older, the Senate approved legislation to allow $6,000 of taxable retirement income to be exempt from state income tax. The bill also provides tax cuts for low-income individuals and retirees.
Several tax relief provisions were also included in the Small Business Relief and Revitalization Act that passed the Senate last week.
General Fund Budget
Thursday, the upper chamber passed the largest general fund budget in state history. The $2.70 billion general fund budget for fiscal year 2023 pays off all funds borrowed to the Alabama Trust Fund. Also included in the budget is an increase in investment for mental health services and a cost-of-living adjustment for state employees. Additionally, the proposed budget calls for sending money back to taxpayers.
A comprehensive breakdown of the Senate-approved general fund budget may be accessed here.
The legislature passed a series of bills aimed at bolstering Alabama’s standing as one of the most military-friendly states in the nation. The legislation addresses a wide-ranging list of issues relating to enhancing the quality of life for the state’s military families.
Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed (R-Jasper) commended the work of the upper chamber in passing legislation that he indicated to be vital to the state’s future.
“At the halfway point of the session, there is no doubt that my colleagues have already made a positive impact on their districts and our entire state for years to come,” proclaimed Reed. “I am proud of the tireless work, collaborative dialogue, and commitment that our members have made thus far, and the result has been a productive session that has seen our members defend our conservative values, stand up for the American Dream, and grow opportunities for every Alabamian.”
The Senate leader continued, “Whether it be investing in rural health care, expanding high-speed broadband internet access, strengthening Alabama’s military and extended defense communities, improving mental health resources, or providing commonsense tax cuts to small businesses and families, the members of the Senate have been fighting for Alabama’s future every single day.”
According to Reed, much work lies ahead of the body prior to its adjournment in late April.
“While I applaud my colleagues for a successful first half of the session, I also know that our work is far from finished. We look forward to continuing to stand strong for Alabamians’ freedoms and create an environment in which every community in Alabama can thrive,” concluded Reed.
Senate Majority Leader Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville) hailed the chamber’s GOP membership for delivering on significant legislative priorities.
“I am extremely satisfied with the issues that the Senate Republican Caucus chose to focus on during the first half of the legislative session, and I appreciate the perseverant effort and long hours that our Caucus members dedicated to bettering the lives of Alabamians in every community across the state,” stated Scofield. “The bills we passed in the Senate will impact our people in a very significant way. Senate Republicans have pushed legislation to accelerate and modify broadband expansion, provide relief to struggling small businesses, enhance Alabama’s military-friendly environment, and deliver tax cuts to hardworking Alabama families.”
Scofield added, “I echo the sentiments of the Pro Tem by saying there is certainly much work left to be done, and I look forward to collaborating with my fellow Republican colleagues to tackle our remaining priorities from protecting our Second Amendment rights to improving education. I am confident that there will be a handful of additional accomplishments to celebrate when the session concludes if we continue to work together in an effective manner.”
Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL
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