2021 Legislative Session

By Mimi Penhale and Amy Young

The 2021 Regular Legislative Session began on February 2, 2021. This year’s session will look very different than years past, due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. In a typical year, we would see hundreds of bills filed on a variety of issues, but this year, due to the uncertainty, leadership is encouraging our Regular Session to be more focused. 

Following Governor Kay Ivey’s State of Emergency last March, the 2020 Regular session was abruptly halted. When the legislature came back into session, following a few weeks of quarantine, the legislature only had enough time to pass the state’s General Fund and Education Budgets, as well as a few nonconfrontational local bills.

When looking into how to conduct the 2021 Regular Session, leadership had to consider the safety of the legislators and staff, so they have placed a limited entry into the statehouse. All who wish to meet with a legislator at the statehouse are required to have an appointment and wellness screening. While this has limited constituents and lobbyist from in person meetings, the Shelby County Legislative Delegation will work to ensure that our citizens are heard. If you would like to speak to your representative or senator, please call our Delegation office at 205-620-6610.

The focus of the 2021 Regular Session will be the General Fund and Education Budgets. By law, this is the only legislation the Alabama Legislature is required to pass, each year. The legislature will also be focusing on key bills to address tax relief and economic development initiatives, which ended in December, due to those bills not being renewed last year during session. The tax relief bills will seek to exempt Alabamians from having to pay taxes on stimulus or grant money received from the Federal Government during the pandemic.

With there being a limited focus this session, our Delegation only filed a few bills. Here is a breakdown of the committees they will serve on and the bills they will be sponsoring:

Representative Arnold Mooney is starting out the 2021 Legislative Session on four committees. He is the chairperson for the Shelby County Legislation, and is a member of Constitutions Campaigns and Elections, Health, and Ways and Means General Fund committees. Rep Mooney is sponsoring nine bills this session, including HB257, which aims to exempt certain pandemic-related financial relief programs under the CARES Act from income and excise taxes.

Representative Dickie Drake is on five committees this Legislative Session. He is the chairperson for the Military and Veteran Affairs Committee, and is a member of the Judiciary, Public Safety and Homeland Security, Jefferson County Legislation, and Shelby County Legislation committees. He is sponsoring two bills this session. HB225 will provide information and opportunities to veterans.

Representative Corley Ellis started the 2021 Legislative Session on six committees. He is vice chair for the Insurance and Shelby County Legislation committees, and is a member of the Fiscal Responsibility, Ways and Means Education, Urban and Rural Development, and Education Policy committees. Representative Ellis has three pieces of legislation this Legislative Session, including HB148, which seeks to allow the Revenue Commissioner to make appointments for certain conditions, process for filing vacancies, and increase the per diem for active members.

Representative Russell Bedsole is spending his first Legislative Session on three committees. He is a member of the Boards Agencies and Commissions, State Government, and Shelby County Legislation committees. He has one filed bill, HB350, which says that sheriffs will not be required to be conservators. If passed, sheriffs will be able to appoint one of their staff members to be the conservator or guardian of the estate or protected persons.

Representative Jim Carns will be on four committees this year. He is the chairperson for the Jefferson County Legislation and Commerce and Small Business committees, and a member of the Shelby County Legislation and Children and Senior Advocacy committees. He has HB388 filed, which would propose an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to provide that the implementation date for any bill enacted by the Legislature in a calendar year in which a general election is to be held and relating to the conduct of the general election shall be at least six months before the general election.

Representative Allen Farley will be spending the 2021 Legislative Session on four legislative committees. He is the vice chairperson for the Public Safety and Homeland Security and is on the Ethics and Campaign Finance, Jefferson County Legislation, and Shelby County Legislation committees. Representative Farley has no sponsored bills.

Senator Jim McClendon is on six committees this year. He is the Healthcare chairperson, and is a member of the Rules, Shelby County Legislation, Finance and Taxation and Education, Finance and Taxation General Fund, and Education Policy committees. Senator McClendon is sponsoring eight bills during the 2021 Session. One of his bills, SB238 hopes to allow qualified visually impaired voters to vote through absentee ballots under certain circumstances.

Senator Dan Roberts is on eight committees this Legislative Session. He is the Senate chairperson for the Shelby County Legislation committee and the vice chairperson for the Transportation and Energy committee. He is also a member of the Jefferson County Legislation, Governmental Affairs, Banking and Insurance, Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development, Healthcare, and Children Youth and Human Services committees. Senator Roberts has six sponsored bills, including SB31, which regulates the period of time between municipal and special primary elections and runoff elections to be four weeks.

Senator Jabo Waggoner is on seven committees this legislative session. He is the chairperson of the Rules and Jefferson County Legislation, and the vice chair of the Confirmations committee. He is also a member of the Finance and Taxation General Fund, the Shelby County Legislation, Finance and Taxation Education, and Banking and Insurance committees. Senator Waggoner has nine sponsored bills this session. SB78 establishes the Alabama Council on Advanced Technology to advise the Governor and the Legislature.            

While there are sure to be more bills introduced during this session, the clear message of a narrow focus is evident in the number of bills already filled by our Delegation and the other members of the legislature.

The possibility of a Special Session this year is imminent, due to the extension of the Census in 2020. In the year following a census, states usually receive their numbers from the federal government by late December, giving our legislature time to address redistricting during the Regular Session. This year, the federal government expects to get states the census numbers by July, so we expect to go into a special session to address redistricting later this year. Hopefully by that point, our world will be in a safer place to conduct meetings and business.

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