Alabama’s general fund was still up in the air at press time, with special sessions being called to work out heated points of budgetary contention. Meanwhile, here’s a sampling of what was passed and signed into law during the regular session, as seen by the attorneys of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP via JDSupra.com.
- School Choice and Student Opportunity Act: Authorizes the creation of public charter schools in Alabama. Such schools give flexibility in staffing, curriculum and budget to allow for more classroom innovation. The law authorizes public schools to convert into charter schools, with the authorization of local school boards, and also allows creation of new public charter schools.
- Enhancements to Alabama Accountability Act: Modifications were made to the tax-credit scholarship program created by the original 2013 accountability act, namely increasing the $7, 500 cap on individual donations to $50, 000 and allowing tax credits generated by donations made by pass-through entities, such as S corporations and LLCs, to flow through to the entity’s owners. It also increases the annual amount of tax credits available from $25 million to $30 million.
- Act to Establish a State Board of Postsecondary Education: The new independent Alabama Community College System is now governed by its own board, not the elected State Board of Education.
- Alabama Jobs Act of 2015: Establishing a jobs tax credit and partially transferable capital-investment credit to replace the existing capital credit. This was the second of a five-bill package introduced this session that most see as the biggest change to state economic development incentives since Mercedes-Benz arrived. The investment credit is transferable for the first three years of a project and must be sold at a minimum of 85 percent of face value.
- Alabama Veterans and Targeted Counties Act: Gives enhanced incentives under the Alabama Jobs Act for qualifying projects located in rural counties or that created jobs for veterans. For projects in counties with fewer than 25, 000 people, the jobs credit is increased to 4 percent of the previous year’s wages paid to eligible employees.
- Innovator Liability Reform: The bill restored a long-standing product liability doctrine requiring that a defendant must have a relationship with a product (having manufactured or designed it) to be held liable for damages period after damages.
- Open Meetings Act: Closed a loophole that allowed public bodies to dodge a requirement to conduct business in public by holding a series of small meetings with less than a quorum.
- Prison reform: Makes changes to sentencing and probation standards in an attempt to ease overcrowding at state prisons, now exceeding capacity by 100 percent.
- State Agency Fees: Allowing agencies to hike fees every five years based on the Consumer Price Index, subject to the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Agency Regulation Review.
Text by Dave Helms