5/15/17 Group Watch: BCBS Autism Deal

The Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee chairman Trip Pittman said he met with Blue Cross Blue Shield’s chief executive officer and has a letter promising coverage for autism therapy staring January 1, 2018. The offer appears to have an age cap at 16 years old, while the bill pending in committee has no age limit. Some observers say BCBS is keen to avoid a legislative mandate that would set a precedent for future government healthcare mandates. Pittman has been one of the few vocal opponents of the autism due to his concerns about how the state would finance the benefit. According to him, the BCBS agreement would have the state provide $2.5 million for Medicaid. The autism bill passed the House 100-0. The Senate committee voted the bill out of committee on Wednesday with two amendments. One amendment caps the coverage age at 16 and the other provides an exemption for small businesses.

5/15/17 Group Watch: Senate May Change Healthcare Bill “A lot”

U.S. Senator Luther Strange said that the Senate is likely to change the American Health Care Act that recently passed out of the U.S. House of Representative. Strange described the House-passed bill as a good first step towards addressing a number of problems that remain. He said that Obamacare is not providing the care that they expected, and while Alabamians have “coverage”, they don’t have access to care. Strange said that premiums are too high, deductible you can almost never use, can’t get affordable drug coverage, leaving the insured with just a catastrophic policy. Strange said he is committed to getting it done right as opposed to getting it done quickly.

5/15/17 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

@thebloomgroup: “Congratulations to our friend Vernon Barnett. @ADEMVBarnett

May 8, 2017 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The Alabama Legislature returned to work on Tuesday, May 2 for the 22nd day of the session. Here are a few highlights of what was accomplished.

  • On Tuesday (22nd day of session): The House passed general bills to establish the Alabama Space Authority within the Department of Economic and Community Affairs, to authorize municipalities to rehire retired law enforcement officers and firefighters under certain circumstances and to exempt from state sales and use tax the sale of photographs and commissioned portraits.  The Senate passed House-passed bills to authorize the rehire of retired public safety officers in Jefferson County under certain conditions and to revise and create forest products severance and manufacturers tax on wood residue used in conjunction with forest products manufacturing processes. They also passed general bills to allow for the payment of awards in condemnation proceedings under certain circumstances and to expand the adjusted gross income range for maximum standard deductions.
  • On Wednesday (a committee day and the 23rd day of session): The House Judiciary Committee approved Senate-passed bills to permit capital defendants to choose a firing squad and to clarify the process of hearings and service process requirements in domestic violence cases. The House Jefferson County Legislation Committee approved Senate-passed bills governing the salary of the Birmingham City Council and to further the boundaries of authority to operate Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center. The Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee approved a House-passed General Fund Budget with amendment and the Children First Trust Fund budget. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a House-passed childcare facilities licensing bill with amendment. The House passed the Senate-passed appropriation bills for the Education Trust Fund, Lyman Ward Military Academy, Tuskegee University and Talladega College. The Senate passed a number of bills of local application only before adjourning for the day.
  • On Thursday (24th day of session):  The House passed a general bill to further define the practice of Marriage and Family Therapy practitioners and a Senate-passed bill to further define the boundaries of authority to operate the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center. The Senate passed the House-passed appropriation bills for General Fund Agencies and the Children First Trust Fund.

5/8/2017 Group Watch: Roby’s Overtime Bill Clears House

U.S. Representative Martha Roby spent time this week explaining her Working Families Flexibility Act, which allows workers choose between overtime pay and paid time off. Currently government employees can utilize compensatory time, paid time off in lieu of overtime pay. That practice is prohibited in the private sector. Roby’s bill, which passed the House, removes the federal restriction on the use of comp time in the private sector. Under Roby’s bill, it is up to the employee to determine whether or not they want their overtime pay or they want to accrue overtime to use later as paid leave. Roby said this about moms and dads who want to coach their child’s sports team or help care for an aging parent: “It is all about individual choice and flexibility.”

5/8/2017 Group Watch: Gov. Ivey Appoints New ADECA Director

Last week, still-new Governor Kay Ivey appointed a new director for the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA). She chose Enterprise Mayor Kenneth Boswell, saying he “understands the needs of local communities and is fully committed to transparency and openness.” Read more here.

5/8/2017 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

@GovernorKayIvey: “Alabama is our home, our people are as sweet as our tea, and our future is as bright as the Sun over the Gulf.”

May 1, 2017 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The Alabama Legislature returned to work on Tuesday, April 25 for the 20th day of the session. Here are a few highlights of what was accomplished and see some interesting election news below.

  • On Tuesday (20th day of session): TheHouse passed several bills of local application only, and general bills to provide for the practice of midwifery and to exempt certain midwives from licensure by the state Board of Nursing; to provide for the standardized system for collection of excise taxes on natural, compressed and liquefied gas; and to establish the Emergency Medical Services Personnel Licensure Interstate Compact. The Senate passed general bills to immunize the Board of Nursing against anti-competitive rule making; to transfer the Information Technology, Information Services Division and State Business Division from the Department of Finance to the Office of Information Technology; to provide that certain public water, sewer, gas electric and fire protection authorities, boards and systems, are eligible as governmental entities for state and local sales and use tax exemptions; and to authorize Medicaid to file claims and liens against a recipient’s estate.
  • On Wednesday (a committee day): The House Ways and Means Education Committeeapproved a Senate-passed Education budget with changes as well as appropriations bills for Tuskegee University, Talladega College and Lyman Ward Military Academy. The House Judiciary Committee approved a Senate-passed bill to authorize mayors to remit certain court cost in matters where indigence is indicated. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee approved a House-passed bill to immunize volunteer caregivers for persons with chronic illnesses and disabilities. The Senate County and Municipal Government Committee approved a House-passed bill to revise the manner in which local governments approve new municipal solid waste facilities.
  • On Thursday (21st day of session): The House passed several bills of local application only and a general bill already passed by the Senate affecting historical monuments. The Senate passed bills of local application only, including one dealing with the salary of the city council for the City of Birmingham and another that sets the boundaries of authorities to operate the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center Authority as well as a general bill to further revise and strengthen the law governing Stage II driver’s licenses (teen).

5/1/2017 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

@AlabamaToday: Alabama’s ‘Big 5′ mayors lay out agenda for state lawmakers.

5/1/2017 Group Watch: Suspended Alabama Chief Justice running for U.S. Senate

Last Wednesday, suspended Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore announced his candidacy to challenge Senator Luther Strange for the U.S. Senate. It had been rumored for some time that Moore might resign his seat on the bench and make a run for either the U.S. Senate seat or enter the governor’s race in 2018. Moore was suspended without pay for the rest of his term in September 2016. It was determined by the Judicial Inquiry Commission that Moore violated multiple canons of judicial ethics when he ignored federal court rulings that same-sex marriage was legal and must be allowed. Moore confirmed that he had submitted paperwork to tender his resignation from the bench.

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