July 2019 Group Watch: AL Abortion Procedure Ban Not Revived

The U.S. Supreme Court won’t revive Alabama’s ban on the most commonly used procedure in second-trimester abortions. The measure has been blocked by lower courts. The justices rejected the state’s appeal in which it sought to enforce a law enacted in 2016 that bans the abortion procedure known as dilation and evacuation. Courts have blocked similar laws in Kansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas. Court records show 93 percent of abortions in Alabama occur before 15 weeks of pregnancy. The remaining 7 percent of abortions are almost all by dilation and evacuation.

July 2019 Group Watch: Possible Prison Takeover?

While the focus has shifted from state politics to national and presidential politics, a possible special session of the legislature to address Alabama’s beleaguered prison system is still on the horizon. Earlier this year, the Department of Justice advised the state government that some of the current men’s prisons were in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution’s “cruel and unusual punishment” provision. It also implied that if measures were not taken to improve the situation, the prison system could face action from the federal government, which could come in the form of a takeover. Recently, State Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) echoed that reminder during a radio talk show. He seems to think that a special legislative session is looming for early 2020.

July 2019 Group Watch: Charles Graddick to Head Pardons and Paroles

Governor Kay Ivey has appointed former Alabama Attorney General Charles Graddick of Mobile as director of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles. Graddick served as attorney general from 1979 to 1987. He also served as a circuit judge in Mobile, where he most recently served as senior judicial advisor and director of courts for the city of Mobile. The appointment comes after the legislature passed a bill that gave the governor the appointing authority during the last regular session. The new law goes into effect September 1, which coincides with Graddick’s start date.

June 3, 2019 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

During this year’s regular session of the Alabama Legislature, more than 1,000 bills were filed in the House and Senate, a third of which were passed. The legislature overwhelmingly approved a gas tax (in a special session that interrupted the beginning of the regular session) and a commission to study medical marijuana, but let die a bill to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. It tinkered with the notion of a state lottery before finally letting that measure go the way of the dodo once again.

It was a busy and tumultuous session to be sure, but as of last Friday, it’s over. While some issues like abortion and the possibility of a lottery grabbed headlines, one of the legislature’s key tasks, creating and passing budgets to run the government, deserves equal attention. On the last two days of the session, conference committee reports reconciling the differences in the Education Trust Fund and General Fund budgets were adopted, and both were passed.

The General Fund budget ($2.1 billion) and Education Trust Fund budget ($7.1 billion) have now gone to Governor Ivey’s desk to be signed. Of note are the pay raises included: The GF budget calls for a 2 percent pay raise for state employees, while the ETF budget includes a 4 percent pay raise for education employees.

The General Fund budget also addresses the state’s ongoing prison woes, allocating $517 million to The Alabama Department of Corrections, an 8 percent increase over last year, mainly to fix staffing issues. The bump up will pay to hire more correctional officers and allow for an increase in pay for current officers.

The ETF budget is the biggest it’s been since 2008, with a major increase going to the state’s community college system and its First Class Pre-K program. The budget also fully funds the Public Health Employees Health Insurance Program.

6/3/2019 Group Watch: Campus Free Speech Safeguarded

In an attempt to encourage and protect the free and open exchange of ideas at Alabama’s tax-funded public higher education institutions, a bill passed by a 24-1 vote in the Senate and a 73-26 vote in the House requires these institutions to develop and implement free-speech policies for their campuses. These policies have to include language that designate a campus’ outdoor areas as available forums for speech for any member of the campus community. On the flip side, the bill disallows the formation of “free-speech” zones, spots on campus where certain speech can be corralled when and if it is deemed “offensive” by a group or by administration. If the bill becomes law, Alabama will be the 17th state to have such a law.

6/3/2019 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

June 1
Wow, Great first session!!! Everyone in this picture has a desire to improve the state of Alabama and make it a better place. They dedicate a huge amount of their time away from family, friends, and business to serve the people of Alabama. Thank you Senators for serving well!!!

6/3/2019 Group Watch: Equal Pay Passes

Alabama joined the majority of other states in the union with the passage of an equal bay bill, (Mississippi is the only state left without one), which prohibits any business and employer from discriminating by paying a lesser amount for the same work to any person based solely on their gender or race. The bill provides exceptions for pay based on seniority, merit systems, systems that base earnings on quality or quantity of production or a differential based on any factor other than race or gender.

6/3/2019 Group Watch: Voters Get a Voice on School Governance

Voters will now decide how the state’s public education system is run with the passage of the bill sponsored by Senator Del March (R-Anniston). A constitutional amendment will be on the ballot in March 2020, that, if voted to enact, will abolish the current elected Board of Education and replace it with a governor-appointed and Senate-confirmed commission of nine members. The commission would then appoint a Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education in place of the current Sate Superintendent position. Finally, the commission would be required to develop a replacement for common core.

6/3/2019 Group Watch: Prison Special Session?

The legislature passed some legislation aimed fixing the issues plaguing the state’s prison system, but likely, didn’t go far enough. There’s a good chance that Governor Ivey will call a fall special session to tackle an overhaul of the prison system.

6/3/2019 Group Watch: Atlas V Rocket Part of Historic Mission

An Atlas V rocket poised to make history recently emerged from the United Launch Alliance manufacturing facility in Decatur and began a trek aboard a unique cargo ship to the legendary launch pad at Cape Canaveral. It is set to launch Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner on the Crew Flight Test mission to the International Space Station in what could be the first time an American-made rocket has carried U.S. astronauts to the orbiting laboratory since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011.

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