April 21 2017

IMPROVE Act Passes Both House and Senate
The Governor’s signature transportation bill, HB534/SB1221, passed both the House and Senate on Wednesday this week. There are some changes in the version which passed the Senate, most notably the addition of an improvement to the property tax relief program for veterans and the elderly. This change will have to go back to the House on Monday for approval before the bill can be sent to the Governor. It is expected that with this bill resolved, the administration will begin presenting its updated budget in the Finance committees next week. The House has also discussed adopting the “flow motion” next week which is a procedural move to allow bills to move quickly from committee to committee and to the floor without the usual delays. This is commonly done every year during the concluding weeks of session. Absent a major breakdown in budget negotiations, adjournment could come as soon as the week of May 8th. 

Emergency Manager Death BenefitThere were few updates on legislation that EMAT is specifically following. There is no change in the current status of HB604/SB763 (Halford/Stevens) which was requested by EMAT to make county emergency management personnel eligible for a death benefit. It has passed the Senate and is still awaiting consideration on the “first responder” calendar of the House Finance Subcommittee. As soon as we find out when that slate of bills will be heard, 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 was scheduled for discussion in House Finance Subcommittee on April 19 but was deferred. It is not yet calendared in the Senate.

Similarly, 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), was also deferred in the House Finance Subcommittee. It was placed behind the budget in the Senate Finance Committee.

Post Disaster Assistance
SB964/HB1166 (Overbey, Crawford), a bill that would allow a city or county to spend public funds to clean up private residential property, passed on the House floor this week. An amendment was added in the House 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 already passed the Senate, so this change will have to go back to the Senate for approval.

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 awaiting discussion in the Senate Finance Committee. SB1158/HB32 (Hensley, Byrd) was placed behind the budget in the House. 

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 Finance Subcommittee placed this bill behind the budget as well.