April 12, 2021 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The eighth week of the 2021 regular session of the Alabama Legislature wrapped up last week.

Gambling was back on the table, with Governor Ivey reiterating her desire to let Alabama residents express their thoughts on the matter with their vote.

And education was a headline, thanks to Senator Del Marsh’s “Open Schools Act” bill.

A detailed roundup of daily activity in both chambers is below, followed by articles and updates on specific legislation and other #alpolitics topics.

The House and Senate return on April 13 at 1 and 1:30 pm respectively.

  • Tuesday, April 6 (19th legislative day): The Senate Education Policy Committee approved House-passed bills to require mental health awareness to be included in the annual training session for employees of each K-12 school and to establish the Extended Learning Opportunities Act, creating opportunities for public K-12 classroom credits for learning experiences outside of the typical classroom setting. The committee also approved a bill to create the Open Schools Act. The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee approved House-passed bills to: designate the authority to manage the construction and renovation of property that is part of a state educational institution; create a database to maintain law enforcement information and provide civil protections for background checks and pre-employment checks; and further provide for security of the Alabama State House by the Alabama State Law Enforcement Agency. The House passed several bills of local application only and a general bill allowing governing bodies of certain municipalities to set compensation for municipal utility boards. The Senate passed a number of bills of local application only and House-passed bills to: create Aniah’s law and provide for an additional offense under which an individual can be denied bail; and further provide for definitions of types of foster family homes. It also passed bills relating to engineers and other design professional and their contracts for professional services and to provide procedural due process protections for K-12 students for suspensions and expulsions.
  • Wednesday, April 7 (20th legislative day and a committee day): The House Commerce and Small Business Committee approved bills to suspend the tobacco permits in cases of failure by retailers to pay distributors, which has already passed the Senate, and to further provide for contracts of engineers and other design professionals. The House Education Committee approved a bill to require local boards of education to post information relating to work-based learning opportunities to parents and students. The House Ways and Means Education Committee approved a bill to provide for tuition reimbursement for transition and postsecondary programs for children of disabled veterans with intellectual disabilities. The Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee approved a House-passed bill to require electronic monitoring for certain inmates upon release by Pardons and Parole Board. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a House-passed bill to authorize local boards of education to offer yoga as an elective to students in K-12 and a bill to prohibit certain defendants from being granted bail. The House passed several bills relating to the Alabama Board of Registration for Foresters relating to continuing education requirements, call meetings of the Board and the sale of nominal marketing materials. They also passed bills to require healthcare facilities to allow one caregiver or visitor to patients or residents, subject to reasonable restrictions, and require hospitals to bill an injured person’s health insurance and only seek compensation from health insurance when certain circumstances apply, clarifying hospital lien provisions. The Senate passed a bill establishing the Alabama Lottery Commission, its powers and duties and the distribution of proceeds.
  • Thursday, April 8 (21st legislative day): The House Health Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee approved bills to provide limitations of liability for certain regional mental health entities and the directors and employees. The House passed several bills of local application only as well as Senate-passed bills to create the COVID-19 Recovery Capital Credit Protection Act of 2021 and provide for standardized statewide issuance and information management of concealed carry permits. The Senate passed bills to provide for the use of hazardous duty time to calculate years of services for in-service death benefits for firefighters, law enforcement and correctional officers and to provide subsistence pay for law enforcement officers employed by the Department of Revenue.

April 12, 2021 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

@yhn
April 9
Former Gov. Robert Bentley founds ‘Great State Alabama’ nonprofit to support rural, underserved areas

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April 12, 2021 Group Watch: Committee Approves Bill Requiring Creation of Open Enrollment Policies

The Senate Education Policy Committee voted 7-3 to approve a bill by Senator Del Marsh requiring school districts to create open enrollment policies. The students transferring would need to pay a fee specified by the school district, according to the sponsor. Marsh said there are exceptions. For example, school districts don’t have to accept new students if there is a lack of space or if the students don’t meet certain requirements. According to Marsh, 47 states have open enrollment policies. Groups representing school boards and superintendents spoke against the bill at the committee. They said the bill runs into legal problems since it outlines that a district can deny enrollment if it does not have the facilities for a special needs stude

April 12, 2021 Group Watch: Legislature Passes Alcohol Delivery Bill

Cheers! The legislature is sending a bill to Governor Ivey that allows  alcohol to be delivered to people’s homes. The measure allows beer, wine and spirits to be shipped directly to consumers. Only those 21 and older would be allowed to order and receive the alcohol. The bill creates a licensing procedure and limits how much alcohol someone can have shipped to them.

April 12, 2021 Group Watch: House Passes Bill to Define Timing for New Election Laws

The Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill that would prevent the State of Alabama from implementing any legislative changes to election procedures within six months of a general election. Since the legislation proposes an amendment to the state’s constitution, it requires approval by a majority of Alabama voters if it makes it through the legislative process. The bill comes as Republicans nationwide have expressed concern with the actions of states such as Pennsylvania, which continually tweaked its election procedures until very shortly before the 2020 general election. The entire text of the bill is as follows: “The implementation date for any bill enacted by the Legislature in a calendar year in which a general election is held and relating to the conduct of the general election shall be at least six months before the general election.”

April 12, 2021 Group Watch: Ivey Issues “Safer Apart” Order

As the state’s COVID-19 numbers continue to plummet (see next article) and the statewide mask order has expired, the state of emergency over COVID-19 remains. Late last week, Governor Ivey announced her new Safer Apart Order, which encourages people to wear masks and practice social distancing. Mask wearing will not be mandated in the new order, but it does require quarantine for anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 and maintains some restrictions on hospital visitations. So far, Montgomery and Birmingham have extended their citywide mask mandates beyond the expiration of the statewide order. Ivey said that businesses have the right to set their own requirements. The state recently made vaccines available to all Alabamians 16 and older, and clinical trials of vaccines for children are still ongoing.

April 12, 2021 Group Watch: COVID-19 Cases & Hospitalizations Down in AL

Alabama’s coronavirus number have shown incredible improvement from their dangerous highs in early January, and the state is hitting some important pandemic safety benchmarks for the first time. The state has averaged 196 new cases each day for the last week, down 94 percent from the average of 3,080 new cases per day on the week ending January 11. Alabama’s hospitals had 317 coronavirus patients as of last Thursday, down roughly 90 percent from the capacity-threatening peak of 3,084 on January 11. The state’s new case numbers have continued to fall in recent weeks, even as a number of states in the Northeast and Sun Belt regions of the country have seen upticks. Governor Ivey said of the pandemic, “Thank the good lord we’re in the home stretch.”

April 12, 2021 Group Watch: Lifting of School Yoga Ban Advances in Senate

The Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee has assumed a new yoga position. Members of the committee voted 5-1 for a bill lifting Alabama’s ban on ypga classes in public schools. The Alabama State Board of Education banned yoga, hypnotic states, guided imagery and meditation from K-12 public schools in 1993 amid a moral panic stoked by some groups, who alleged that hypnosis and meditation were being used in public schools. The House approved the bill 73-25 last month.

April 12, 2021 Group Watch: Medical Marijuana Bill Moving Through the Legislature

Gaining approval from the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday puts a bill that would allow the sale and use of medical marijuana in Alabama one step closer to the governor’s desk. The bill specifies more than a dozen medical conditions eligible for access to medical marijuana but does require a doctor’s approval first. It’s headed to an additional House committee this week.

April 5, 2021 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The Alabama Legislature completed its seventh week of the 2021 regular session last Thursday.

Highlights at the State House included the House approval of a bill that allows direct delivery of alcohol and the shipment of wine to households, plus a pause on legislation that aims to restructure the Alabama Department of Public Health and the position of State Health Officer.

Governor Ivey spent time last week visiting areas in the state ravaged by tornadoes and severe storms.

Read on for a breakdown of daily activity and to find more details on the issues making news.

The House and Senate return on April 6 at 1 and 2:30 pm respectively.

  • Tuesday, March 30 (17th legislative day): The House passed several bills of local application only and general bills to: prohibit discrimination against disabled persons being the recipient of organ transplants; further provide for the Residential Mortgage Satisfaction Act; raise the age to buy, possess or use nicotine products to 21, and impose restrictions on marketing of certain nicotine products; and revise the timeframe for applying to vote absentee. They also gave final approval of Senate-passed bills to: exempt from sales and use tax the TWG 2021 Birmingham Foundation and to further provide for timeframes for run-off elections for municipalities. The Senate passed a bill to suspend tobacco permits in cases of failure by retailers to pay distributors.
  • Wednesday, March 31 (a committee day): The House Health Committee approved a bill to require healthcare facilities to allow one caregiver or visitor to patients or residents, subject to reasonable restrictions. The House Ways and Means Education Committee approved Senate-passed bills to: allow airport authorities to receive sales and use tax exemption and grant sovereign immunity to the School of Cyber Technology and Engineering. The House Judiciary Committee approved bills to: expand the expungement of criminal records to include convictions of certain misdemeanor and felony offenses and to increase the filing fee for expungements; create a database to maintain law enforcement information providing civil protections, providing for background checks and pre-employment checks; and establish the Alabama Court Cost Commission. The Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee approved a bill to establish a uniform pay plan for judges. The Senate Education Policy Committee approved a bill to further define the physical location of a public charter school under the Alabama School Choice and Student Opportunity Act. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill to create the Alabama Public Records Act, a method of request for public records and the manner of appeal.
  • Thursday, April 1 (18th legislative day): The House passed a number of bills of local application only and general bills to: provide for the broadcast of public K-12 school sporting events; provide for the creation of the Math and Science Teacher Education Program; and establish the Extended Learning Opportunities Act for learning opportunities outside of the typical public K-12 classroom for credit. They also gave final approval to Senate-passed bills to: revise the licensure requirements for pharmacists and authorizing the Board of Pharmacy to set continuing education requirements; and further provide for and define the School Foundation Program Fund. The Senate passed bills to: provide for the standardized issuance and information management for concealed carry permits in the Alabama State Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA); update references to the federal motor carrier safety regulation; to further provide for the responsibility of the State Health Officer in response to an outbreak of disease; and to authorize business and religious entities to continue operation under certain conditions during an emergency.
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