3/6/17 Group Watch: Auto Supplier Opening $10.4M Facility

A Spain-based auto supplier has announced plans to build a $10.4 million manufacturing facility in Birmingham. Grupo Antolin’s Alabama facility will employ about 150 people by 2020. The average wage for workers at the plant is planned to be $19.13 an hour. Construction is scheduled to start in early March on an existing building in Jefferson Metropolitan Park. Grupo Antolin develops, designs and manufactures a wide variety of interior components for automakers, including doors, seats, lighting fixtures, cockpits and trim. The company claims to have parts in one in four cars in the world. The company was founded in 1950 and has 28,000 employees. They have plants in 26 countries.

February 27, 2017 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The Alabama Legislature returned to work on Tuesday, February 21, for the 5th day of the session. Here are a few highlights:

  • On Tuesday (5th day of session): The House passed general bills to authorize elected officials to designate another person to serve on certain agency boards and commissions and to repeal duplicative permitting requirements for livestock markets and dealers. The Senate passed general bills to require a local match for educational grants for programs serving gifted or talented children; to clarify the authority of the Community College System to participate in the Teachers Retirement System and PEEHIP and to acquire and dispose of property; to amend the dates for the application of the sales tax holiday for school items; and to authorize the administration of a single dose auto-injectable epinephrine on K-12 school campuses by students pursuant to an anaphylaxis preparedness program.
  • On Wednesday (committee day): The House Ways and Means Education Committee approved a bill to increase the cap on income tax credits for donations to scholarships under the Accountability Act of 2013. The House Boards, Agencies and Commissions Committee approved bills to immunize the Board of Licensure for responsible decisions in the administrative process and to continue by statute an administrative procedure to require documentation of experience when competing for projects affecting the safety and well-being of the public. The House Commerce and Small Business Committee approved a bill to allow the Department of Environmental Management to charge fees for the permitting of centralized waste treatment facilities. The Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee approved bills to continue a number of state boards and agencies to include the Physical Therapy Board, the Board of Optometry, the Veterinary Medical Examiners Board, the Home Builders Licensure Board, the Board of Examiners in Marriage and Family Therapy, and to immunize the Board of Licensure for Engineers and Land Surveyors for responsible decisions in the administrative process.
  • On Thursday (6th day of session): The House passed general bills to lower the age of majority to 18 years, but to retain age limitation for the sale of tobacco and to require the State Department of Education to develop and implement an electronic security notification system. They also passed several bills of local application only. The Senate passed general bills to affect the salary of the Director of the Securities Commission and to amend the law for Peace Officers’ Standards and Training to include non-public education.

2/27/17 Group Watch: Senator Rusty Glover to Run for Lt. Governor

State Senator Rusty Glover announced last week that he will run for lieutenant governor in 2018. A Republican from Mobile County, Glover said he wants to make the legislature open to all people, looking out for all Alabamians and not just the few. Glover, a retired high school history teacher, won election to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2002. He served a single term before winning election to the Alabama Senate in 2006 and is currently in his third term. The lieutenant governor’s responsibilities now include presiding over the Senate; breaking vote ties and deciding points of order; and making appointments to some boards and commissions. The lieutenant governor also becomes governor if the governor dies or is removed from office.

2/27/17 Group Watch: House Majority Leader Steps Down

After six years in the position, Representative Micky Hammon of Decatur confirmed in a press release that he was stepping down as House Majority Leader once his replacement is elected. Hammon was elected to the House in 2002 and as Majority Leader in 2010. Hammon said he will continue to be a proud member of the Republican team and will do everything in his power to help pass the party’s agenda and other conservative reform measures. Earlier this month, the Democratic Caucus elected Rep. Anthony Daniel of Huntsville as the new Minority Leader. Hammon said it was time for the House Republicans to have new leadership as well.

February 20, 2017 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The Alabama Legislature returned to work on Tuesday, February 14, for the 3rd day of the session. Here are a few highlights:

  • On Tuesday (3rd day of session): The House debated the rules report for several hours before breaking for dinner. After the recess, they quickly voted on a resolution voicing support for President Donald J. Trump. They also passed a bill clarifying the status of institutions of higher education as agencies of the state under the Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act and requiring them to comply with all immigration laws or be subject to forfeiture of certain funds. The Senate passed several bills of local application only and a number of general bills including a bill to further define and regulate the sale of over-the-counter, nonprescription eyeglasses and to allow the Department of Transportation only, greater flexibility on bids on certain public improvement projects. Others passed included bills: to require seatbelt use for each occupant while a vehicle is in motion; to revise the statutes of limitations for certain fraudulent activities relating to Medicaid; and to further provide for the Department of Environmental Management to set fees for centralized waste treatment facilities. They carried over a bill to extend the weight allowances for motor vehicles converted to the use of compressed natural or liquefied gas.
  • On Wednesday (committee day): The House Boards, Agencies and Commissions Committee gave a favorable report to a bill to allow Marriage and Family Therapy licensees to diagnose mental and emotional problems. The House Education Policy Committee approved a bill to establish as a corporate body the Community College System and to further provide for employees and the disposition of property. The Senate Education and Youth Affairs Committee approved a bill to prohibit from requiring residents of the state who live within 75 miles of campus from living on campus. The Senate Finance and Education Committee approved bills to provide grants for educational programs provided by the State Department of Education and to implement the Simplified Sellers use Tax.
  • On Thursday (4th day of session): The House approved several bills of local application only and a number of bills under the sunset provision of state law to continue the following agencies and boards: the board of Licensure for Professional Geologists, the Board of Nursing, the State Board of Pharmacy, the Dental Examiners Board, the Elevator Safety Review Board, the Manufactured Housing Commission, the Board of Optometry and the Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners.  The Senate approved bills to create the Alabama Space Authority within the Department of Economic and Community Affairs and to authorize the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections and the Secretary of ALEA to establish a program to issue non-driver IDs to resident parolees upon release.

2/20/2017 Group Watch: Major Hospitals Pull Out of Medicaid Reform

An overhaul of the state’s Medicaid program has already been postponed a year and could face more delays after the departure of several healthcare systems over concerns about the program’s direction and costs. In recent months, several of Alabama’s largest hospitals, including UAB and the University of South Alabama, have suspended plans to create regional care organizations. The CEO of UAB Health System said lawmakers should postpone the October start of the plan to evaluate loopholes that opened the market to out-of-state companies that specialize in managing Medicaid programs. Although several large hospitals have shelved plans to put together regional care organizations, not all have pulled out of the program. Leaders of a regional care organization with participation from DCH Hospital in Tuscaloosa and Huntsville Hospital are still pushing for an October rollout of Medicaid reform. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has stated that an extension beyond October 1, 2017, will result in the withdrawal of waiver approval and the loss of approximately $748 million in waiver funding.

February 13, 2017 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The 2017 Regular Session of the Alabama Legislature began last Tuesday, and legislators wasted no time diving into some important and interesting work. Here’s a quick recap of the first two days and the pressing issues facing them:

  • The Medicaid Commissioner reported another Medicaid crisis. The Bentley Administration is hoping that the federal government will block grant the state their share of the Medicaid money with no strings attached about who gets coverage and deductibles.
  • Building prisons is the governor’s No. 1 priority. Alabama prisons are drastically overcrowded, and the governor wants the legislature to approve an $800 million bond issue to address constitutional deficiencies.
  • While the 2010 census is in the past for most Alabamians, the state is still trying to get a legislative redistricting plan through the Federal court system. Three state senate seats and nine house seats were recently ruled unconstitutional and the state is forbidden from using those districts ever again. During this session, the Joint Committee on Redistricting is going to have to draw up a new plan to satisfy the plaintiffs and Federal court prior to the 2018 election.
  • Roadbuilders want more money to fund needed road and bridge work across the state. As cars have become more fuel efficient, gas tax revenues have stagnated, leaving less state money available to draw down Federal road and bridge funds
  • Alabama is a pro-gun rights state however there is still debate on just what gun rights mean. A bill has been introduced to allow citizens carry a concealed weapon without a permit.
  • Sanctuary cities became an issue after the Birmingham City Council passed a resolution declaring the state’s largest city open as a sanctuary.

2/13/17: Sessions Confirmed as U.S. Attorney General

The U.S. Senate confirmed Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama as U.S. Attorney General by a vote of 52-47. Sessions voted “present” on his nomination, while Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia was the lone Democrat to cross the aisle to vote for Sessions. Sessions was elected U.S. Senator from Alabama in 1996 after serving two years as the state’s attorney general. Sessions was among the first in Congress to support candidate Donald Trump and served as an advisor in Trump’s successful presidential campaign. Sessions, who graduated from Huntingdon College in Montgomery, and the University of Alabama Law School, was the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee. He was also a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

2/13/17 Group Watch: Luther Strange Appointed to U.S. Senate

Governor Robert Bentley appointed Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange to the U.S. Senate following the confirmation of Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General. Strange, 63, was elected the state’s attorney general in 2010 and re-elected in 2014. The appointment follows a lengthy process of interviews and questions about what role, if any, the Alabama attorney general’s office had in probing controversies swirling around the governor. Bentley expressed confidence in Strange’s ability to serve the people of Alabama.

2/13/17 Group Watch: Governor Bentley Appoints New AL AG

Governor Robert Bentley announced on Friday the appointment of Steven Marshall, former Marshall County District Attorney, as the new Alabama Attorney General. Marshall will fill the vacancy left by Luther Strange upon his appointment to the Unites States Senate. Read more here.

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