January 22, 2018 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

Neither snow nor (freezing) rain… 

The Alabama Legislature convened last Tuesday despite a forecast of snow, below-freezing temperatures and closed roads. While the weather did shut things down on Wednesday, plenty of work still got done.
  • On Tuesday (3rd day of session): The House honored military veterans and proceeded to pass several bills aimed at helping the lives of veterans, including bills to give veteran-owned businesses an advantaged in winning state contracts; providing additional tax credits for businesses hiring unemployed veterans; and providing free admission to state parks. They also passed a number of bills with local application only. The Senate passed several sunset bills continuing the operation of Board and Commissions, including the Sickle Cell Oversight and Regulatory Commission; the Board of Prosthetists and Orthotists; the Surface Mining Commission; the Oil and Gas Board; and the Elevator Safety Review Board. They also passed bills to eliminate marriage licenses and set up a process under which judges accept affidavits from couples as official records of marriage and to track racial profiling by police during traffic stops.
  • On Wednesday: All meetings were postponed due to weather and road closings in and around Montgomery.
  • On Thursday (4th day of session): The House Judiciary Committee approved bills to prohibit smoking of tobacco products in vehicles with minors present and to terminate the parental rights of any person committing rape. The House Ways and Means General Fund Committee approved a bill to further provide for certain tax-exempt water and sewer authorities. The House Education Policy Committee approved bills to provide for the qualifications of the Secretary of Early Childhood Education and to remove the requirement for public education employees to be on paid administrative leave when charged with certain sexual crimes against students. The House also passed several bills of local application only and general bills to revise the provisions governing the operation of the Examiners of Public Accounts; to further provide for the Alabama Partnership Act; and to further provide for the right-of-redemption in matters relating to residential redemption. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill related to considerations for municipalities when dealing with summons and complaints. The Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee considered bills relating to the Simplified Sellers Use Tax Program and to further provide for further distribution of state tax revenue, but took no actions after considerable discussion.

1/22/2018 Group Watch: AL Seeking Medicaid Waiver

Alabama may become one of nearly a dozen mostly Republican states that are seeking a waiver from the federal government that could allow the state to institute work requirements for some of those who are on Medicaid. Governor Kay Ivey recently said that she has directed the Medicaid Commissioner to begin working on seeking a waiver for the requirement and increasing co-pays for beneficiaries. States are typically required to request waivers from the federal government for changes to their Medicaid programs.

1/22/2018 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

@GovernorKayIvey 

Jan 16: “I’m saddened to hear of the death of state Rep. George Bandy. Since his election in 1994, he has been a dedicated public servant to the people of Lee and Russell counties. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and fellow legislators during this difficult time.”

1/22/2018 Group Watch: Senator Calls for Stiffer Human Trafficking Penalties

Senator Cam Ward introduced a bill last week to increase the penalties for human trafficking in Alabama. Read more in Alabama Today.

January 15, 2018 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

And so it begins.

The Alabama Legislature returned to the capital city last Tuesday for the start for the 2018 regular session. The highlight of the opening day was the State of the State address by Governor Ivey (see more below). On Wednesday, a committee day, lawmakers got to work.
  • The House Education Policy Committeeapproved a bill to replace the State Superintendent of Education with an at-large member of the University of North Alabama Board of Trustees, to remove the requirement that public education employees charged with certain sex crimes against students be paid administrative leave, and to provide for the qualifications of Secretary for Early Childhood Education. A number of local bills were also reported out of committee.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee approved several bills, including ones to define the conditions under which defendants in municipal courts are to be released as an unsecured appearance bond or personal recognizance and to provide for the probate recording of marriage contracts.
  • The Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee approved Sunset Bills to continue the Sickle Cell Oversight and Regulatory Commission; State Board of Prosthetists and Orthotists; the Pilotage Commission; the Surface Mining Commission; the Oil and Gas Board; and the Elevator Safety Review Board.

1/15/2018 Group Watch: GOP Senate Wants Tax Adjustment

Alabama Senate Republicans will back a bill that would increase the threshold taxpayers can claim the full standard deduction. The bill would increase the adjusted gross income level where most individual taxpayers can qualify for the full $7500 standard deduction from $20,000 to $23,000. The bill is being hailed as a tax break for working class Alabamians and is expected to cost between $4 and $6 million. Alabama Arise, who works on poverty issues, described the bill as a modest benefit.

1/15/2018 Group Watch: Toyota-Mazda Plant Coming to AL

Last Wednesday executives from Mazda Motor of America and Toyota North America announced that they will build a plant in Limestone County, just north of Huntsville. The new plant is expected to employ 4,000 people along with a multiplier of three to four times that many in a network of suppliers across the state. The state’s workforce training program, AIDT will train people across the state for the skilled jobs.

1/15/2018 Group Watch: State of the State

During a televised event, Governor Kay Ivey delivered her first annual address last Tuesday, and it set broad and wide-ranging priorities for state government. Matching a mood among legislators, Ivey avoided major controversy, proposing pay raises for state employees and teachers, increased investment in education and a renewed effort to improve Alabama’s embattled prison system. Ivey’s speech focused largely on issues she’s spearheaded since she ascended to the post last year including education, economic development and improving the state’s prisons.

December 2017 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

More good news is making headlines this month, a gift just in time for the holidays.

  • State Budgets Will Have More Money: State Finance Director Clinton Carter recently said he expects each of the budgets to have about $200 million more this year. Carter said the state’s economy is showing signs of recovery after the longest and most prolonged recession in modern history. The unemployment rate is at a historic low, at about 3.6 percent. Carter says attrition among state employees, belt-tightening and careful financial management have Alabama in solid financial condition. While other states have experienced a downgrade in their credit rating, Alabama has avoided credit troubles. The state’s resiliency is credited to the Alabama Trust Fund, which receives money from the oil and gas leases and most recently from British Petroleum settlement. The financial gains could be offset by growing expenses in the prison system and Medicaid.
  • Alabama’s 2016 Graduation Rate Ranks 16th in Nation: According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Alabama’s overall high school graduation rate of 87.1 percent for the class of 2016 ranks 16th in the nation. The graduation rate for the country as a whole for the class of 2016 hit a record high of 84.1 percent, increasing from 83.2 percent for the class of 2015. The federal graduation rate is calculated as the percentage of students who graduate four years after entering high school as a ninth grader.
  • Gov. Ivey Announces $1.5 million Grant for Early Education: Governor Kay Ivey recently announced that Robert E. Lee Elementary School in Satsuma will be among the first to benefit from a grant funding a new early childhood education program. The W. K. Kellogg Foundation awarded the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education a $1.5 million grant to allow for further expansion of the Pre Through 3 initiative for early learning. Pre Through 3 is in its first year as a pilot program, serving 35 classrooms in eight systems across the state.

December 2017 Group Watch: Republican 2018 Agenda

The 2018 regular session of the Alabama Legislature begins early this year, with the House and Senate convening on Tuesday, January 9. In preparation, the Alabama House Republican Caucus released its 2018 agenda last week. Entitled “Flag, Family, and Country,” the list of issues includes measures to protect Alabama families, to extend benefits to members of the military, to increase respect for our nation’s flag and more. Read more here.

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