By State Representative Danny Garrett
MONTGOMERY — We have now completed the fifth week of the legislative session. Although the elections garnered most of the media attention this week, the legislature continued to work on a series of important issues and moved closer to addressing the state’s two budgets.
Rep. Joe Lovvorn (R-Auburn) sponsored a bill that provides tax credits of up to $3,000 for individuals who purchase a tornado shelter for their home. The bill also provides tax credits up to $4,500 for those who contribute to the cost of purchasing a tornado shelter for third parties. The bill passed the House on March 3, which was the one-year anniversary of the devastating tornado that hit Lee County and took the lives of 21 people. I worked with Rep. Lovvorn on the bill and sponsored an amendment to ensure that the EMA and Department of Revenue cooperate to provide credits for certified tornado structures.
The House also this week approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Chris Blackshear (R-Phenix City) that addresses the growing problem of financial abuse of the elderly. The legislation allows banks and financial institutions to delay a financial transaction on the account of an elderly person if elder abuse or financial exploitation is suspected. The legislation also allows an elderly person to submit and update a list of individuals who should be contacted if financial exploitation is suspected, attempted, or has occurred. This legislation is a continuation of an effort began in 2013, when the Republican-led Alabama Legislature passed laws making it easier to criminally charge and prosecute individuals who abuse, neglect, or financially exploit the elderly.
Senator Dan Roberts (R-Mountain Brook) and I serve as co-chairs of the Joint Task Force on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. In conjunction with the work of the Task Force, this week we filed two bills designed to reduce the state taxes on individuals and business that increased as a result of federal tax changes in 2017. These bills are complicated and will probably not be passed in their entirety this session; however, we are optimistic that the Legislature will consider some of our proposed changes this session and will enact more of our recommendations next year after more data is collected from tax returns filed in 2020. Some of the changes would require the vote of the citizens on a Constitutional Amendment. Realistically, implementing major tax reform will be a multi-year effort, but we are getting the process started this session.
As Vice Chairman of the Education Ways and Means Committee, helping to craft the larger of our state’s two budgets is one of my main responsibilities each year. We have been diligently working on the education budget the past five weeks and have only a few remaining items to address before the full House debates the budget. My hope is that the House will vote in a couple of weeks. This year’s budget is expected to be the largest education budget in Alabama’s history, passing the previous high-water mark set before the 2008 recession.
Real-life American Heroes. That’s the best way I can describe the special guests who visited the statehouse on Thursday. A joint session of the Alabama House and Senate celebrated Tuskegee Airmen Day. I was honored to meet three members of America’s most famous fighter squadron of WWII. Trained here in Alabama, the Tuskegee Airmen were the U.S. Army’s first African-American fighter squadron. They escorted Allied bombers into the heart of Nazi-controlled Europe. They were the only fighter squadron in WWII not to lose a bomber to enemy fire and the movie “Red Tails” was inspired by their exploits. I would encourage you learn more about these amazing men and this important part of Alabama and American history.
As always, it is an honor to serve House District 44. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 205-410-4637 if there is anything you wish to discuss.