April 11, 2022 Group Watch: Lawmakers Pass Ban on Transgender Medical Treatments For Minors

The legislature passed a bill to criminalize medical treatments to help transgender minors affirm their gender identity. The Senate-passed bill passed the House by a vote of 66-28. The vote came after the Republican majority passed a petition to cut off the debate after a short time. The vote to pass the bill was mostly along party lines, with Republicans supporting it, and Democrats opposed. The bill would make it a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison for doctors to prescribe puberty blockers or hormones or to perform surgeries on transgender minors to help them transition. Doctors who provide the care say no such surgeries are done on minors in Alabama.

April 11, 2022 Group Watch: Lawmakers Approve Delay of Reading Retention Requirement

The legislature voted to delay a high-stakes requirement to hold back third graders who don’t meet reading benchmarks. The bill now goes to Governor Kay Ivey, who previously expressed support for a one-year delay. Many lawmakers expressed concern about putting the requirement on students after the pandemic interrupted classrooms for two years. There had been disagreement over how long to delay the requirement. The promotion requirement, part of the 2019 Alabama Literacy Act, stated that to move on to the fourth grade, students would have to make above a “cut score” on a standardized test or demonstrate mastery of reading standards through a reading portfolio. Earlier this year, state officials said 23 percent of students scored below the set cutoff score on the latest assessment.

April 11, 2022 Group Watch: $225M in ARPA Funds to Go to Water & Sewer Projects

Gov. Kay Ivey recently announced that $225 million in COVID-19 pandemic relief funds has been provided for statewide water and sewer infrastructure improvements. The agreement signed between the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) and the Alabama Department of Finance states that ADEM will distribute grants to qualifying public water and sewer systems for the purpose of improving access to clean water and sewer infrastructure projects and the economic impact thereof. The following is a breakdown of how the $225 million in grants will be utilized:

  • $120 million for grants to public water or sewer systems with previously identified emergency or high-need projects and do not require a local match
  • $100 million for grants to public water and sewer systems that may require local matching funds based on their ability to pay
  • $5 million for grants to demonstration projects in the Black Belt to address sewage disposal problems prevalent in rural, low-population-density areas where poor soil conditions prevent wastewater from septic systems from being absorbed into the ground.

Approximately one-third of the state’s 1,061 water and sewer systems have already applied for grants.

April 11, 2022 Group Watch: Alabama’s “Small Town Downtowns” Making a Comeback

Cities in rural Alabama are seeing a rebirth in their downtowns, with a blitz of new business opening, property renovations and multimillion-dollar investments. Pop-up shops, green spaces, art festivals and social media buzz are among the trends that are helping drive the efforts to bring merchants, residents and visitors back to the heart of the community. Some areas are seeing an increase in downtown living and Airbnbs. The pandemic proved that people can live anywhere and continue to work virtually. More entrepreneurs are investing in downtowns, and much of that activity involves small-scale producers, such as breweries, distilleries, fabric makers and coffee roasters. In the past two years 23 communities with a population under 50,000 have reported 160 net new business openings, along with 450 property improvements from private investment totaling $38.5 million.

April 4, 2022 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

As the 2022 regular session nears its end, bills will soon be relegated to the “passed” and “dead” lists. Those that made it all the way through to the “passed” list last week include a bill that will help protect the state’s senior citizens by creating an elder abuse registry. Governor Ivey has already signed it into law.A bill to expand healthcare access by regulating telemedicine passed the Senate, and a bill aimed at boosting the state’s showing in the math portions of standardized tests, called the Numeracy Act, made it through the House.

The news of job creation and capital investment continues to come in, and the expansion of broadband in the state is moving right along, with Governor Ivey announcing that ARPA funds for that purpose have already been transferred to ADECA. Keep scrolling to learn more about activity last week in the legislature and in #alpolitics.

The House and Senate return on Tuesday, April 5 at 1:30 p.m.
and 2:30 p.m., respectively.

April 4, 2022 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

@toddcstacy
April 3
Alabama lawmakers are planning a rare work week of four legislative days to conclude the 2022 regular session, an ambitious challenge that shows how eager some are to return home in an election year. Read more in
@ALDailyNews
–> https://aldailynews.com/lawmakers-plan-rare-four-day-week-to-end-the-session/… #alpolitics

April 4, 2022 Group Watch: Legislature Day-by-Day, Play-by-Play

Tuesday, 24th day of regular session: 
  • The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee approved bills to revise the definition of shotgun and to further provide for the removal of disabled vehicles.
  • The full House approved several bills of local application only, and general bills to require the State Board of Education to phase in the employment of auxiliary teachers to assist classroom teachers; to require criminal justice agencies to submit reports concerning reported and unreported sexual assault cases; and a Senate-passed bill to create the Alabama Numeracy Act to improve math performance in grades K-12.
  • The Senate Finance and Taxation Committee approved bills to establish a grant program for awarding funds to public schools to provide no-cost feminine hygiene products to students and to require each school board to employ a mental health service coordinator, subject to an appropriation by the legislature.
  • The full Senate passed several bills of local application only, debated several general bills and passed some bills, including one to further provide for telehealth and telemedicine.
Wednesday, 25th day of regular session:
  • The House Ways and Means Education Committee approved a bill to expand the income tax credit available to individuals who adopt a child.
  • The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill to further provide for definitions associated with human trafficking.
  • The House State Government Committee approved bills to require certain emergency rules, orders or directives issued by the State Health Officer to be approved by the Governor and filed with the Secretary of State before taking effect, and to allow the board of trustees of the Alabama Trust Fund to hold virtual meetings and to further provide for the operation of the board.
  • The House passed several bills including bills to: expand scholarship awards by the Board of Optometry and retroactively authorize remote meetings of the board; authorize the Board of Dental Scholarship and Loan Awards to make loans to further dental education and further provide for the membership of the board; and to require public K-12 schools and local boards of education to accept certain forms of payments for admission to school sporting events.
  • The Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee approved several bills relating to education funding including the state education budget, a four-percent raise for education employees, a one-time lump sum bonus for retired educators and appropriations to non-state entities such as Lyman Ward Military Academy, Tuskegee University and Talladega College. It also approved two supplemental appropriation measures affecting a number of state entities for the current fiscal year.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee approved bills to authorize the service of notice of a garnishment by the posting of a garnishment order, and to further provide for judicial redemption civil actions brought by the owner of property attempting to recover that property.
  • The Senate passed several bills including bills to: establish the State Employees’ Trust Fund Funding Act as a permanent trust and investment account to fund periodic bonuses for state retirees and to increase the loan repayment award for qualified math and science teachers per semester.
Thursday, 26th day of regular session:
  • The House Urban and Rural Development Committee approved a Senate-passed bill that prohibits the issuance of bonds by a county or municipality without authorization by the qualified voters of the county, city, town or other political subdivision.
  • The House State Government Committee approved a Senate-passed bill to require an unemployed individual to search for work a certain number of times per week to be eligible to receive unemployment benefits.
  • The House Health Committee approved a Senate-passed bill to abolish the special purpose license for physicians who practice medicine or osteopathy across state lines via telecommunications and would now require any physician who provides telehealth medical services to any person in the state to possess a full and active license.
  • The House passed several bills of local application only and general bills to: require parenting plans in child custody cases and remedies for violations of the plan; increase the loan repayment award for qualified math and science teachers per semester; prohibit false or secret compartments in motor vehicles; and to limit the use of facial recognition to ensure artificial intelligence is not the only basis for arrest.
  • The Senate Children, Youth and Human Services Committee approved a bill to establish certain requirements for medical cannabis use by women of childbearing age. The Senate approved a number of budget bills including the state education budget, a four-percent raise for education employees, a one-time lump sum bonus for retired educators and appropriations for non-state programs such as Tuskegee University, Lyman Ward Military Academy and Talladega College. It also gave final approval to House-passed bills to reduce the minimum business privilege tax and to update and clarify practices in the Education Trust Fund Rolling Reserve Act.

April 4, 2022 Group Watch: Data Center Opens In Auburn To Expand Access To Fiber Networks

Governor Ivey and other public officials took part in the grand opening of the $120 million AUBix data center in Auburn last week. The 40,000-square-foot center near the Auburn University campus will offer private and public organizations more secure and efficient access to fiber networks and more content for consumers. AUBix would serve companies in healthcare, financial services, manufacturing and other sectors, as well as academia and state and local governments. Auburn University intends to use AUBix to meet federal requirements for cybersecurity.

April 4, 2022 Group Watch: Alabama Creates Registry For Elder Abuse Convictions

Gov. Kay Ivey recently signed the law to create the nation’s first elder abuse registry. The new state database, created by legislation called “Shirley’s Law,” will include the names of anyone convicted of mistreating senior citizens. The law’s namesake Shirley Holcombe died in 2018 after becoming a victim of forgery by a caretaker, and the legislation was the result of Shirley’s daughter Jo Holcombe’s efforts. The law will allow family members to see whether someone being considered for a job involving older adults has ever been convicted of elder abuse. It will also provide information about people who have come under protection orders for elder abuse. There were 11,122 reports of elder abuse in 2021, including physical abuse, neglect and financial exploitation.

April 4, 2022 Group Watch: Alabama House Approves Legislation To Provide Resources For Math Education

The Alabama House approved a Senate-passed bill aimed at improving the state’s performance on standardized math testing. The bill known as the Numeracy Act would set minimums for instruction of math and allow state intervention in public schools that fail to meet certain testing requirements. Legislators have long expressed frustration with Alabama’s performance on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). The Numeracy Act would require teachers from kindergarten to fifth grade to devote at least one hour a day to math instruction. It would require schools to intervene with students who show mathematics deficiencies. Intervention could mean anything from additional instruction time to small group work to home-based math instruction. The bill would create an Office of Mathematics Improvement in the Department of Education. The office would identify the schools with the lowest math performance as full support schools, where teachers and staff would be required to engage in support and training on math standards. Another tier would be limited support schools that would have to implement standards and cooperate with direction from the Office of Mathematics Improvement.

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