6/3/2019 Group Watch: Medical Marijuana Commission Coming

The efforts to legalize medical marijuana in Alabama got watered down by the end of the session, and the bill that finally passed simply calls for the formation of a study commission that will explore the issue and report back to lawmakers with policy recommendations at the end of this year. The commission will include at least four doctors, including an oncologist, an agriculture expert, a pharmacist and a mental health and/or substance abuse expert. The commission will also hold three public hearings over the coming months to share information with the public and get input. Originally, the bill would have made medical marijuana available to people with multiple medical conditions, but it met too much opposition to make it out of the House

6/3/2019 Group Watch: AL Lawmaker Dies

Last Friday, as the 2019 regular session closed, longtime lawmaker Jimmy Martin (R-Clanton) succumbed to his battle with cancer. He was 80 years old. He served in the House from 1998 to 2010 and was elected to the term he was currently serving in 2014, totally 17 years representing his district. All of us at The Bloom Group, and many, many others, will miss this fine statesman, and we send our sympathies to his family.

May 28, 2019 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The legislature is nearing the end of its 2019 regular session, and a bill that looked like it might have a chance for awhile is now officially dead.

Last week, disputes over distribution of funds and the unwavering opposition of two key groups killed the lottery bill, and there’s zero chance of resurrection at this point. There were objections from conservatives opposed to gambling as well as other holdouts who wanted protections for existing dog track operations in Greene and Macon counties.

Once again, this issue that keeps coming up, will not make it out of the State House and will not be decided by Alabama voters.

5/28/19 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

May 21
Deputy praying with man warms hearts on social media.

5/28/19 Group Watch: Rural Broadband Coming

The bill that will expand access to high-speed internet throughout the state was passed on Wednesday, and it is expected that Governor Ivey will sign it into law. The bill allows electric utility companies to use their existing networks to offer broadband internet to rural areas by letting them add high-speed cable lines to their current power line systems. The increased access should have positive impacts on education and economic development in these areas. Not only does this increase access to what is today an almost-crucial service, it does it at a reduced cost since often, existing infrastructure can be used and new lines won’t have to be run. Earlier in this session, Ivey signed the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Act, which creates a grant program for broadband access that will be administered by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.

5/28/19 Group Watch: Distracted Drivers-Watch Out

It’s no question that driving while distracted, specifically by a phone, is dangerous, leading to multiple car accidents, often resulting in injury or even death, every year on Alabama roadways. Last week, HB 404 was passed by a vote of 77-9, and the bill makes it illegal to hold an electronic device in your hand while driving. Texting while driving is already against the law, but this bill takes things further. It prohibits writing, sending or reading a text-based communication; watching, capturing or recording a picture or video; and holding a device to talk on the phone. The bill goes to the Senate this week.

5/28/19 Group Watch: Fantasy Sports Wagering-A Good Bet

A bill to allow betting on fantasy sports passed the House earlier this month, but last week, it got hung up in the Senate. The bill would make it legal for Alabamians to place wagers on fantasy sports games through popular sites like Draft Kings and others. Competing in fantasy sports (baseball, football, basketball and more) is legal now, but betting on the contests is not. It is expected that the Senate will revisit the House-passed bill, sponsored by Rep. Kyle South, R-Fayette, this week.

5/28/19 Group Watch: Education Budget Debate

The House Ways and Means Education Committee publicly aired its version of the Senate-passed education budget last Tuesday and efficiently passed it of committee on Wednesday. The $7.2 billion budget includes raises for public education employees but differs from the Senate version. The bill will be before the full House on today, where it will likely be passed and have the differences worked out in a conference committee.

5/28/19 Group Watch: Marsh Education Plan Approved

The House of Representative Education Policy Committee approved a Senate-passed proposed constitutional amendment sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh to overhaul the state board of education. The legislation would replace currently elected board members with members appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate. The legislation would also abolish the position of state superintendent and replace it with a secretary of education position. This position would be appointed by a commission and subject to confirmation by the Senate. The bill would mandate that the newly formed commission replace Common Core in Alabama.

5/28/19 Group Watch: AL Tourism Industry Growing

At a press conference last week, Governor Ivey announced that one million more people visited Alabama in 2018 than ever before, and they spent $15.5 billion, which was $1.2 billion higher than the previous year. The industry attracted more than 27.7 million visitors, which paid $954 million in state and local taxes. State Tourism Director Lee Sentell credited increased marketing activities, ranging from social media and paid advertising to public relations activations in places such as New York and Dallas, for the success.

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