3/5/2018 Group Watch: AL Allows Statewide Ridesharing

Governor Kay Ivey signed a bill into law last Thursday that will allow statewide ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft. Alabama becomes the 45th state to allow such services. Prior to Governor Ivey signing the bill, such companies were only permitted to operate in select, approved cities. Now all communities, urban and rural, will have access to the services.

3/5/2018 Group Watch: Bill to Help Homebuyers Moves Forward

A bill that would provide tax deductions — up to $6,000 for an individual and $12,000 per couple annually for five years — was reported favorably by the Senate Committee on Finance and Taxation Education last week. The deduction only applies to money saved in an account to purchase either a first home or a “second-chance” home (meaning a home has not been purchased or owned in the previous five years).

3/5/2018 Group Watch: AL Unemployment Drop is Tops in Nation

Alabama Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington recently announced that Alabama’s unemployment rate decrease of 1.5 percent was the largest drop in year-over-year jobless rates in the country. In 2017, the state’s annual unemployment rate was 4.4 percent, down from the 2016 average of 5.9 percent. Washington said the number recognized the work that state, county and local governments, as well as Governor Kay Ivey and companies, have done to bring down unemployment. The January 2018 unemployment rate is scheduled to be released on March 12.

February 26, 2018 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The Legislature was back at it last week, starting on Tuesday moving more local bills through the process. Additional bills passed ensure funding for several state agencies.
  • On Tuesday (13th day of session): The House passed several bills of local application only and general bills to remove the prohibition against local school superintendent having additional employment; to clarify that certain persons travelling through a municipality on business are not required to have a municipal business licenses; to allow spouses of law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical personnel killed in the line of duty to keep benefits after remarriage; to exempt from sales and use tax the sale of fruit and agricultural products; and to remove certain requirements for the appointment of guardians by the juvenile court (kinship guardianship). The Senate passed several appropriations bills to fund agencies of state government. They also passed the Children First Fund appropriation bill and a bill funding the Coalition Against Domestic Violence, plus a cost-of-living increase for state workers, which would be the first in more than 10 years.
  • On Wednesday (a committee day): The House Ways and Means Education Committee approved bills to expand the gross income range for maximum standard deductions; to provide tax credits for private intrastate adoptions; and to provide an income tax credit only offset for tax liability derived from non-Alabama sources. The House Education Policy Committee approved a bill to further provide for the qualifications of school resource officers. The House Technology and Research Committeeapproved a bill tabbed as the Alabama Data Breach Notification Act. The Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee approved bills providing for a one-time bonus for state retirees; to provide supplemental appropriations for several agencies including the Department of Corrections; and a bill relating to the Simplified Sellers Use Tax Remittance Program. The Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee approved a bill to establish the filing threshold for income tax as the sum of the standard deduction and personal exemptions. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill revising the enforcement provisions of the Ethics law.
  • On Thursday (14th day of session): The House passed several bills of local application only and general bills authorizing the taking of whitetail deer or feral swine by means of bait and bills allowing counties to issue warrants for facilities owned by municipalities. They also passed Senate-passed measures to establish the Alabama Public Transportation Trust Fund to be administered by ADECA and to exempt from sales and use taxes the sales of gold bullions.  The Senate passed a general bill to establish the Alabama Cyber Engineering School.

2/26/2018 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

Feb 25
“Sad news. Our prayers to the Treadway family.”

2/26/2018 Group Watch: Budget Has Prison Funding Boost

The Senate approved a state general fund budget that gives additional money to the state prison system to address issues as part of a federal court order to overhaul mental health care for inmates. The proposed spending plan would provide an additional $51 million to the Department of Corrections for the fiscal year beginning October 1, 2018.

2/26/2018 Group Watch: General Fund Budget Passed

Last Tuesday, the Senate passed the General Fund Budget by an overwhelming majority vote of 26-2. It’s larger than last year’s budget. At just a little above $2 billion, it’s actually the largest in 10 years, with several state agencies receiving funding increases. The pay raise for state workers that has been a part of budget discussions is a separate bill and stalled last week, but many believe it still has a good chance at passing later in the session.

2/26/2018 Group Watch

Southeast Alabama Medical Center in Dothan is the second hospital in the country and the first in Alabama, to have a new hi-tech bed for premature babies. These beds are designed for premature babies and provide temperatures as close to the mother’s womb as possible, allowing babies as small as two pounds to grow and develop without being sent to other hospitals. The beds are designed to provide enough room for physicians to work on the babies.

2/26/2018 Group Watch: Senator Shelby Speaks on School Security

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, who has served in Congress for 40 years, said recently that he thinks the nation needs to do more related to who can get guns. He called for a closer look at those with mental health issues and possibly tightening up background checks. He also mentioned the importance of a level-headed approach to working with schools to have persons trained for security at schools. Shelby said that while most people are good and decent, we have a few who are bad.

2/26/2018 Group Watch: Ivey Speaks on School Shooting

Governor Kay Ivey spoke out on potential protections for schools in wake of the mass shooting in a Florida school. She cautioned against “knee-jerk reactions,” saying the state should listen to law enforcement. Ivey said she would support metal detectors in schools, but is open to more ideas. While some are advocating arming teachers on a voluntary basis, Governor Ivey says she is not sure teachers who have to address so many things during the school day should be given guns.

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