Adoption tax credit passes Alabama House
by Tim Lockette
Jan 22, 2014 | 3425 views |  0 comments | 39 39 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a $1,000 tax credit for families who adopt children.

The bill, part of a Republican agenda that House leaders had hoped would be non-controversial, sparked two hours of debate from critics who questioned whether the state could afford the bill.

"My concern is that we're taking money from children who need it, from the Education Trust Fund," said Rep. Thomas Jackson, R-Thomasville.

The bill, by Rep. Paul Lee, R-Dothan, would grant a one-time, $1,000 income tax credit to adoptive families for each child they adopt, in the year the child is adopted.

Income tax goes to the state's $5.9 billion Education Trust Fund, or ETF, which pays for schools. The bill would cost the ETF an estimated $2.5 million per year.

Lee said the benefits of adoption would more than make up for the cost, saving the state roughly $5,500 per year for every child no longer in the foster care system. Foster care is paid for out of the state's cash-strapped General Fund, which covers state agencies apart from schools.

"Our goal is to get the children out of that system," Lee said.

Democrats argued that before passing the bill, lawmakers should decide what cuts to make to offset the loss of the $2.5 million.

In an interview with The Anniston Star last year, Lee acknowledged that the $1,000 tax credit didn't come close to covering the cost of adoption. He said it would ease the transition for families who are struggling to pay those costs.

Some in the House argued for a larger tax credit. Rep. Greg Wren, R-Montgomery, offered an amendment to increase it to $2,000 per child.

Wren said the $5 million cost of his amendment was acceptable when "looking at the $5.93 million ETF, and looking at the way we use this money for other purposes."

Rep. James Buskey, D-Mobile, said the amendment would open the door to more add-ons.

"If you get over to the Senate, they may have another bad Republican idea and they may add more to it," Buskey said. "When does it stop?"

Wren withdrew his amendment, and the bill — with the $1,000 tax credit in place — passed the house by a 71-23 vote. It will move on to the Senate for a vote.

House members also quickly passed a bill that would allow teachers and other state employees immunity from civil liability while acting in their official capacity. Proponents said that immunity is implied in the state Constitution but was never codified in law.

The adoption and immunity laws were both part of Republican House Speaker Mike Hubbard's nine-bill agenda for the 2014 session. So far, only one bill on that agenda — a "revolving door" bill that would ban lawmakers from lobbying for two years after they leave the Legislature — has yet to be passed.

A Senate version of the revolving door bill is expected to come up in the upper house on Thursday.

Senators spent much of Wednesday evening debating a pair of bills that would reorganize administrative agencies within the legislature.

A number of bills progressed through committees in both houses Wednesday:

— A House committee passed a bill by Rep. Randy Wood, R-Saks, that would give state employees paid leave to attend court proceedings if they're called to testify in a trial for the murder of a police officer. State employees who are parents of a slain police officer would also be allowed leave to attend a trial. The bill moves to the full House.

— Senate and House committees approved separate versions of a bill that would shorten the death penalty appeals process. One of the bills will have to pass both houses in order to become law.

— The Senate Committee on Veterans and Military Affairs voted unanimously to approve a bill that would remove a "wartime service" requirement from a state scholarship program for family members veterans who were disabled or killed during their military service. State law always set aside the benefit only for families of veterans who served in wartime, a state Veterans Affairs official said, but until 2011, the state ignored the rule, accepting applications from families of peacetime veterans. VA general counsel Sandy Speakman said 228 scholarship applications have been turned away since the "wartime service" rule was reinstated.

The bill will head to the full Senate for a vote.

Capitol & statewide reporter Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star. HOW THEY VOTED

A "yes" vote is for a $1,000-per child tax credit for families who adopt children.

Barbara Boyd, D-Anniston — No

Koven. L. Brown, R-Jacksonville — Yes

Steve Hurst, R-Munford — Yes

Richard Laird, I-Roanoke — Yes

Becky Nordgren, R-Gadsden — Yes

Randy Wood, R-Saks — Yes

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