April 13 2017

The bill to create a death benefit for emergency management personnel, HB604/SB763 (Halford/Stevens), passed the Senate on the consent calendar Monday night. Thank you for reaching out to legislators and urging their support of the legislation. I encourage you to follow up and thank them for their support of the bill.

     In the House, the House Finance Subcommittee referred the bill to a “First Responder” calendar where the subcommittee will review proposals to enhance benefits for first reponders at the same time. There has still not been an announcement as to when that meeting will occur. When we get more information about this meeting, we will let you know.

     Separate legislation that proposes to increase death benefits to a total of $250,000 payable over five years, SB1059/HB1368 (Bowling, Sargent), has been sent to the Finance Committees in both chambers. It is scheduled for discussion in House Finance Subcommittee on April 19. It is not yet calendared in the Senate.

     The bill that would extend health insurance benefits for the family of a first responder who dies in the line of duty, HB466/SB822 (Lynn, Haile), is also scheduled for discussion in the House Finance Subcommittee on the 19th. It was placed behind the budget in the Senate Finance Committee.

IMPROVE Act Heads to the Floor

     The Governor’s signature transportation bill, HB534/SB1221, is scheduled for debate on the House Floor on Wednesday April 19. The bill has battled through numerous committees and subcommittees in the House, but has moved with ease through the Senate. If the bill comes out of the House on Wednesday, it is expected the Senate will take it up the following day in its Thursday session. Much of the final state budget is dependent on what happens with this bill. The outcome in the House this week will have a significant impact on the rest of the legislative session, which is already expected to carry over into May. If this bill fails, requiring substantial revision of the proposed budget, the session could linger on for several more weeks and could create further division between the two chambers and between the legislature and the executive branch.

Post Disaster Assistance

     Legislation that would allow a city or county to spend public funds to clean up private residential property is headed to the House floor for discussion on the 19th. It was amended in the House Local Government Subcommittee to clarify that the county commission must authorize a highway department to do work on private property and provide for funding outside of dedicated transportation funding. The bill, SB964/HB1166 (Overbey, Crawford), has already passed the Senate.

Natural Disaster Relief Program

     A bill to create a TEMA administered natural disaster relief program for incidents that do not reach the level for a federal declaration is still waiting for discussion in the Finance Committees. SB1158/HB32 (Hensley, Byrd) is not yet scheduled in the Senate, but will be heard April 19 in the House Finance Subcommittee.

Public Safety Behavioral Health

     A bill, SB211/HB709 (Green/Whitson), to require public safety employers to offer up to ten free counseling visits for treating PTSD in its employees has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee. The House Health Committee recommended the bill and sent it to Finance.