March 22, 2021 Group Watch: GP Mill in AL Recognized

Thanks to its sustainable practices, the Georgia Pacific facility in Brewton earned the coveted Energy Star Challenge Achiever for Industry award for 2020. The container board mill, which manufactures the paperboard used in cardboard boxes and paper plates, was recognized with the award by the Environmental Protection Agency for improving its energy intensity by 11.2 percent in just four years, which led to annual cost savings of approximately $2.6 million. The GP Brewton mill is the first in Alabama to receive this designation.

March 22, 2021 Group Watch: Spring Break!

The Alabama Legislature is taking this week off for Spring Break, and so is Group Watch. We’ll be back with the news you need to know on April 5.

March 15, 2021 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

Last week’s legislative headline was the “no-go” on the lottery and casino bill put forth by Senator Del Marsh, but House passage of the General Fund budget is big news too. Read on for more details.
  • Tuesday, March 9 (13th legislative day): The House passed several bills of local application only and general bills to: require the Pardons and Parole Board to use electronic monitoring for certain inmates being released from prison; provide for the General Fund budget; provide appropriation for the Coalition Against Domestic Violence; provide for a 2% raise for state employees; further define additional types of foster family homes; and establish a State Seal of Biliteracy for graduates with the proficiency in English and at least one world language, including American sign language. The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee approved House passed bills to: establish the Alabama State of Emergency Consumer Protection Act; require the Emergency Management Agency to develop guidelines for the volunteer designation of safer place facilities throughout the state to protect individuals during severe weather events; and to allow the governing body of certain municipalities to set compensation for members of utility boards. The Senate passed several bills of local application only and a general bill to further provide when juvenile law enforcement records may be released. They debated at length a bill to provide for a lottery and gaming in the state, but the measure failed to get the 21 votes required for passage.
  • Wednesday, March 10 (a committee day): The House State Government Committee approved a bill to require a county health officer to obtain written approval from the State Health Officer before issuing an order addressing a pandemic. The House Education Policy Committee approved bills to: establish learning opportunities outside of typical K-12 classroom for credit; authorize the broadcast of public K-12 school sporting events; and require local boards of education and superintendents to establish online learning in certain circumstances during school closures. The House Judiciary Committee approved a senate passed bill to require the sales of land for taxes be conducted on premises of or within the courthouse or courthouse annex. The Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee approved a bill to exempt Airport Authorities from sales and use tax. The Senate Education Policy Committee approved a bill to authorize the broadcast of public K-12 school sporting events.
  • Thursday, March 11 (14th legislative day): The House passed several bills of local application only and general bills to: authorize local boards of education to offer yoga in grades K-12; authorize municipalities to use electronic records and signature in the conduct of its affairs; further provide regulation and operation of motor vehicles and electric bicycles; and further provide for security of the State House by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. The Senate passed several bills of local application only and general bills to: revise the membership of the Employees’ Retirement System Board of Control; further provide for granting eminent domain relating to public lands and rights-of-way; and to provide credit for inmates’ time served in local jails awaiting transfer to the Department of Correction.
The House and Senate reconvene on Tuesday, March 16 at 1 and 3 pm respectively.

March 15, 2021 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

March 13
Regular Session 2021
House Convenes: 3/16/2021
1:00 PM
Senate Convenes: 3/16/2021
3:00 PM
Live video stream for the House.
Live video stream for the Senate.

March 15, 2021 Group Watch: Gov. Sets House District 78 Special Election

Governor Ivey set the special election dates for Alabama House District 78. This seat was held by Kirk Hatcher, who was elected to Alabama Senate District 26. The primary is set for Tuesday, May 25, 2021; the special primary runoff, if needed, for Tuesday, June 22, 2021; and the special general election for Tuesday, September 7, 2021. The qualifying deadline is Tuesday, March 23, 2021 at 5 pm.

March 15, 2021 Group Watch: House Approves $2.4 billion General Fund Budget

The Alabama House of Representative approved a $2.4 billion budget with a 2-percent pay raise for state employees and some increases to state agencies. The General Fund budget pays for most noneducation services in the state. The budget is 3.3-percet higher than the current year and includes major increases for the Bureau of Pardons and Paroles, the Department of Corrections, the Department of Mental Health and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. The budget reflects cuts in the allocations for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), due to increased federal support for both programs.

March 15, 2021 Group Watch: Grant Will Help Alabama Workers

The National Governors Association (NGA) has awarded Alabama a $100,000 Workforce Innovation Network and Workforce Innovation Fund grant to develop innovative policies for reskilling Alabamians who have been displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Governor Ivey, the goal is to provide displaced workers with all the resources needed to get back on track and build a better future. The Alabama Skills-Based Recovery Initiative is a key element of the state’s COVID-19 workforce recovery efforts. Between March 21, 2020 and January 30, 2021, more than 950,000 Alabamians filed an initial unemployment claim, signaling a critical need for assistance. This initiative will also offer technical assistance to employers for developing and deploying skills-based job descriptions that will allow companies to create customized job descriptions for their firms.

March 15, 2021 Group Watch: Capitol & Governor’s Mansion Back Open

The Alabama Capitol and the Governor’s Mansion are now open to the public. “As more Alabamians voluntarily get vaccinated and our COVID-19 numbers continue in an encouraging direction, it is proper that our state capitol and governor’s mansion are once again open to the public,” Governor Ivey said.

March 15, 2021 Group Watch:

The Alabama Senate failed to get the required 21 votes to approve a measure to expand gambling and establish a lottery in the state. The vote was 19-13. Governor Ivey issued a statement after the vote saying that vote count confirms more work needs to be done and the issue is too important to not get it right. The governor said that despite the complexity and challenge of gambling, she remains committed to giving the people of Alabama the final say.

March 15, 2021 Group Watch: New Bill Proposes Lottery, But No Casinos

Senator Jim McClendon (R-Springville) introduced a bill last week to propose a lottery only, what he calls a “clean” lottery bill. He believes (because people in his district have said as much) that the lottery-only approach is what people are most interested in when it comes to expanding gambling in Alabama. The bill is expected to be in committee next week. McClendon has tried lottery legislation more than once. Five years ago, his bill passed the Senate but did not get final approval after it was changed in the House. The legislature hasn’t approved a lottery bill since 1999, when voters rejected the plan by then-Governor Don Siegelman. McClendon said his current bill would set up a small commission to oversee a lottery that would include the multi-state games like Mega Millions and Powerball, as well as an Alabama lottery. McClendon proposes splitting the net revenue evenly between the Education Trust Fund and the General Fund, giving the legislature the flexibility to allocate the money where there is the most need; his bill calls for the  legislature to decide each year where the funds will go. He also noted that even without allowing casinos, some in his own party may still oppose bill, as they have moral issues with gambling in general.

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