February 21, 2022 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

Feb 19
Excited about trying a recipe or two this weekend from @DannaStandridge‚Äôs cookbook ūüĎ®‚Äćūüć≥‚Ź≤

February 21, 2022 Group Watch: Legislature Day-by-Day, Play-by-Play

Tuesday, 10th day of regular session: 
  • The¬†Senate Governmental Affairs Committee¬†approved several bills including House-passed bills to¬†clarify that emergency management personnel provide public safety services and¬†to revise the membership of the board of the Alabama Women‚Äôs Hall of Fame and further provide for location of the Hall and for the board to meet by electronic means. It also approved a¬†proposed constitutional amendment, which if ratified,¬†would require the governor to notify the attorney general and a designated member of a victim‚Äôs family prior to granting a commutation to a person sentenced to death.
  • The¬†House¬†passed several bills of local application only and general bills to exempt federal COVID benefits from state income tax; to approve a grace period for paying fines after release from prison; and to allow local grants to expand high-speed internet.
  • The¬†Senate¬†passed several general bills including bills to establish a program of advanced enrollment for children of military families in public K-12; to permit extension of the timeframe allowable for military spouses in their occupational practice; and to¬†further provide for definitions of employment to exclude certain marketplace contractors.
Wednesday, 11th day of regular session:
  • The¬†House Ways and Means-Education Committee approved several bills including a Senate-passed bill to increase the optional standard deduction and expand adjusted gross income allowable.
  • The¬†House Ways and Means-General Fund Committee¬†approved a few bills including bills to extend the supplemental privilege assessment for nursing homes and hospitals through August 2025.
  • The¬†House State Government Committee¬†approved a bill to allow issuance of garnishment writs by regular or certified mail.
  • The¬†House¬†approved a number of bills of local application only and a number of general bills including bills to require a mental health service coordinator for each school system subject to legislative appropriations; to authorize the establishment of entertainment districts within community development districts under certain conditions; to further provide for the equipment required while operating autocycles and other motor vehicles; and to¬†provide that a judge may use discretion in the length of sentence a defendant must serve if his or her probation is revoked.
  • The¬†Senate Finance and Taxation-Education Committee¬†approved several bills including bills to require each local school board of education subject to legislative appropriations to employ a mental health service coordinator; to provide an exemption of up to $40,000 in tangible business personal property from state ad valorem tax beginning October¬†1, 2023; and to provide that the deduction allowed to individual taxpayers for federal income tax paid or accrued within the tax year ending December 31, 2021.
  • The¬†Senate Judiciary¬†Committee¬†approved several bills including a bill to prohibit certain service providers from taking certain restrictive actions against¬†users based on type and content of speech expressed on their platforms.
  • The¬†Senate Education Policy Committee¬†approved a couple of bills including a bill to amend the Alabama Literacy Act to delay its¬†implementation for two years.
  • The Senate approved several general bills including bills to require the governor to provide prior notice when granting a reprieve or commutation to certain parties including relatives of victims; to require procedural due process protection for suspensions and expulsions for students in K-12; and to further provide for payment of principal and interest for loans from the Federal Aid Highway Finance Authority.
Thursday, 12th day of regular session:
  • The¬†Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee¬†approved a bill to provide a one-time bonus to education retirees.
  • The¬†House¬†passed a number of bills of local application only¬†and general bills to extend the privilege assessments for hospitals and nursing homes through August 2025.
  • The¬†Senate¬†passed several general bills including a House-passed bill to further provide for the membership of the Women‚Äôs Hall of Fame Board and to authorize electronic meetings; to allow the Education Trust Fund Advancement and Technology Fund to be used for capital outlay; and¬†to establish the Small Business Relief and Revitalization Act of 2022.

February 21, 2022 Group Watch: Alabama Exports Regain Momentum

In 2021, Alabama’s exports surged 21 percent in value compared to the previous year, surpassing pre-pandemic levels and indicating the underlying resilience of the state’s economy. Alabama businesses exported to 189 countries last year, reflecting the vial connection that the state’s high-quality, in-demand products have to the global economy. The top five destinations were:
‚Äʬ†Germany – $3.7 billion (up 65.7%)
‚Äʬ†Canada – $3.4 billion (up 15.6%)
‚Äʬ†China – $3.4 billion (up1.6%)
‚Äʬ†Mexico – $2.5 billion (up 35%)
‚Äʬ†South Korea – $921.7 million (up 47.3%)

The state‚Äôs No.1 export category ‚Äď transportation equipment ‚Äď jumped 25.8 percent¬†to reach $10.35 billion, a figure that topped the total for 2019. Overseas shipments of Alabama-made motor vehicles rose 38.4 percent¬†in value, while exports of ships and boats jumped 40 percent¬†last year. Other top categories for 2021 exports were chemicals ($2.3 billion), forest products ($1.5 billion), primary¬†metals manufacturing ($1.3 billion)¬†and non-electrical machinery ($1.1 billion.

February 21, 2022 Group Watch: Alabama Community College System Opens Innovation Center

The Alabama Community College System Innovation Center launched the first of several industry-specific programs to help students find immediate employment.The Innovation Center is a $10 million investment made to rapidly train workers for the state’s highest-demand industries. The training includes short-term classes that students can start from anywhere in the state and finish with an in-person lab in a regional location. Once students complete the training, they are job-ready and are awarded a credential and an opportunity to earn more certifications at their local community college. The Innovation Center has already successfully collaborated with the Alabama Tourism Department to help workers train for and find jobs in the state’s $16 billion hospitality industry, thanks to a $1 million grant from Governor Ivey. All graduates of the pilot training project hosted by Coastal Community College were matched with jobs, and 100 percent of students were hired upon completion of their training.

February 21, 2022 Group Watch: School Choice Bill Has an Uphill Battle Ahead

Senator Del Marsh’s (R-Anniston) bill that would¬†allow parents to put public money towards¬†private education for their children has strong supporters and detractors, but it may not get very much farther, at least this session. Last week, it hit a hurdle, when it was sent to a study commission, often a final stopping point before a bill is declared dead.¬†Read more here.

February 21, 2022 Group Watch: Alabama House Passes Bill to Expand High-Speed Internet Access

The Alabama House passed a bill by Rep. Randall Shedd that will help deliver high-speed internet to places where it’s not available by allowing local grants to be used to expand high-speed internet. It proposes an amendment to the state constitution, which prohibits counties and cities from providing grants or other things of value to private companies. The Senate has passed a similar measure. The bill is part of the efforts by the legislature and the governor’s office to expand access to broadband, which is still not available to about 20 percent of the state’s households, according to the Alabama Connectivity Plan. Other measures include a state grant program to make it feasible for companies to install the cable and other equipment needed to deliver broadband to places that would otherwise remain unserved. The COVID-19 pandemic reinforced the value of high-speed internet as people needed it to work and attend school remotely. Alabama and other states are receiving federal money for broadband expansion through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). In January the legislature approved a plan to spend $277 million of ARPA funds for broadband expansion.

February 21, 2022 Group Watch: State Senator Bringing Gambling Legislation This Session

Despite the¬†‚Äúlong odds‚ÄĚ related to it passing,¬†State Senator Albritton says he will introduce some type of gambling legislation during the regular session.¬†Gambling in the state¬†continues to¬†faces the same obstacles: a higher threshold for a constitutional amendment in the legislature, opposition from Republicans who are against gambling for moral or religious reasons and opposition from Democrats seeking to protect local gaming in Democrat-represented areas. Albritton warns opposition could come from beyond Alabama‚Äôs borders too, in the form of gaming-aligned entities in Mississippi and Florida. Albritton’s¬†bill aims to take control of gaming including sports gaming and fantasy gaming.

February 21, 2022 Group Watch: Lawmakers Advance Bill to End Concealed Carry Pistol Permit

After a vigorous and lengthy debate, a divided Alabama House committee advanced a bill to repeal the state’s requirement for permit to carry a concealed pistol. Advocates for the repeal say the requirement to undergo a background check and pay the county sheriff to carry a concealed handgun infringes on the 2nd amendment right to bear arms. The bill has drawn opposition from sheriffs and police, who say the permit requirement helps protect police and the public and helps prevent and solve crimes. Sheriffs also depend on the permit fees for funding. The committee approved the bill on an 8-5 vote with two abstentions. Rep. Allen Farley, who is a retired law enforcement officer was the lone Republican to vote against the bill. The four Democratic members of the committee voted no. A similar bill in the Senate has won committee approval in that chamber.

February 21, 2022 Group Watch: State GOP Removes Two Candidates from Primary Ballots

In a meeting on Saturday, the¬†Alabama Republican Party’s Candidate¬†Committee voted to take Tripp Powell off the primary ballot in the¬†Senate District 21¬†race. The Committee held the vote in¬†response to a challenge filed against Powell’s¬†candidacy. The¬†complaint stems from Powell’s $500¬†campaign¬†donation in 2018 to Tuscaloosa¬†Mayor Walt Maddox’s gubernatorial campaign. Maddox is a Democrat. Patch could appeal the decision,¬†but it’s¬†unclear whether he’ll head down that path. He did tell news outlets that he felt his¬†Party’s actions in the matter were “unjust and illogical.”¬†Another candidate met the same fate. Teresa Rhea,¬†who was vying to be the GOP candidate for Senate District 10, was also removed from the primary ballot during Saturday’s meeting. This move ensures incumbent Senator Andrew Jones will serve a second term, as he has no other primary challengers, and no Democrat has qualified to run. Jones called Rhea’s Republican loyalty into question, pointing out that while she voted¬†in the 2018 and 20120 Republican primaries, she also voted on the¬†Democratic Party¬†ballot in a 2017 special election. And her retired Etowah County Judge husband had been a Democrat during his time on the bench.

February 21, 2022 Group Watch: House Committee Advances Transgender Bill

The House Education Policy Committee has advanced legislation that would ban transgender students from using school bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity. The committee approved a bill that would require K-12 students statewide to use facilities that match the gender on their original birth certificate. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Scott Stadthagen, said the bill is about protecting students and preventing sexual predators from being able to enter bathrooms. Opponents say the bill discriminates against transgender youth and puts them at risk, under the guise of safety. The bill is now in position for consideration by the full House.

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