In other agricultural related legislation, the House passed a bill that would protect Alabama honeybee colonies from pests and disease by increasing fines for illegally transporting honeybees across state lines. SB 433, sponsored by Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, now heads to the governor for his signature. The companion bill, HB 552, was sponsored by Rep. Chad Fincher, R-Semmes.

Also on the way to the governor is a measure that would give the Department of Agriculture and Industries authority to approve roadside signage for agritourism operations. HB 188, sponsored by Rep. Elwyn Thomas, R-Oneonta, passed the Senate Thursday. Sen. Clay Scofield, R-Red Hill, sponsored the companion bill, SB 153, and handled the legislation in the Senate.

"Agricultural tourist attractions often have problems getting tourists to their location because of poor sign placement and confusion on small or country roads, this bill will fix those problems," said Scofield, who chairs the Senate Tourism Committee.

Agriculture and Tourism are two of Alabama's largest industries, both with an economic impact exceeding $9 billion. This bill will combine those two industries thus providing an economic boost to all of Alabama, Scofield added.

Many states have passed similar legislation and have experienced a noticeable increase in tourism. More than 27 states have put in agricultural tourist signs, including Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee and Louisiana.

In other action Thursday, the Senate gave final approval to a bill that would change the Alabama Agricultural Center Corporation board of directors, which oversees Garrett Coliseum in Montgomery. HB 486, sponsored by Rep. Joe Hubbard, D-Montgomery, adds the chair of the Montgomery County Commission, the president of the Montgomery City Council and the mayor of Montgomery to the board. It also authorizes the corporation to issue bonds for the upkeep and renovation of the coliseum. The coliseum hosts livestock shows and other agricultural events.

The Legislature sent a package of four tort reform bills to the governor last week. The bills protect Alabama retailers from product liability lawsuits aimed at manufacturers; lower the interest rate defendants pay on judgements during the appeals process; prohibit the practice of “forum shopping” in wrongful death lawsuits; and establish a framework for the admission of expert testimony.

Meanwhile, Gov. Bentley last week signed signed the Landowners Protection Act (SB 84). The new law, sponsored by Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Cottondale, limits the liability of landowners who lease their property for hunting or fishing. 

The state of Georgia also has newly enacted immigration legislation. For a look at that, see