June 3, 2019 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

During this year’s regular session of the Alabama Legislature, more than 1,000 bills were filed in the House and Senate, a third of which were passed. The legislature overwhelmingly approved a gas tax (in a special session that interrupted the beginning of the regular session) and a commission to study medical marijuana, but let die a bill to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. It tinkered with the notion of a state lottery before finally letting that measure go the way of the dodo once again.

It was a busy and tumultuous session to be sure, but as of last Friday, it’s over. While some issues like abortion and the possibility of a lottery grabbed headlines, one of the legislature’s key tasks, creating and passing budgets to run the government, deserves equal attention. On the last two days of the session, conference committee reports reconciling the differences in the Education Trust Fund and General Fund budgets were adopted, and both were passed.

The General Fund budget ($2.1 billion) and Education Trust Fund budget ($7.1 billion) have now gone to Governor Ivey’s desk to be signed. Of note are the pay raises included: The GF budget calls for a 2 percent pay raise for state employees, while the ETF budget includes a 4 percent pay raise for education employees.

The General Fund budget also addresses the state’s ongoing prison woes, allocating $517 million to The Alabama Department of Corrections, an 8 percent increase over last year, mainly to fix staffing issues. The bump up will pay to hire more correctional officers and allow for an increase in pay for current officers.

The ETF budget is the biggest it’s been since 2008, with a major increase going to the state’s community college system and its First Class Pre-K program. The budget also fully funds the Public Health Employees Health Insurance Program.

6/3/2019 Group Watch: Campus Free Speech Safeguarded

In an attempt to encourage and protect the free and open exchange of ideas at Alabama’s tax-funded public higher education institutions, a bill passed by a 24-1 vote in the Senate and a 73-26 vote in the House requires these institutions to develop and implement free-speech policies for their campuses. These policies have to include language that designate a campus’ outdoor areas as available forums for speech for any member of the campus community. On the flip side, the bill disallows the formation of “free-speech” zones, spots on campus where certain speech can be corralled when and if it is deemed “offensive” by a group or by administration. If the bill becomes law, Alabama will be the 17th state to have such a law.

6/3/2019 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

@willainsworthAL
June 1
Wow, Great first session!!! Everyone in this picture has a desire to improve the state of Alabama and make it a better place. They dedicate a huge amount of their time away from family, friends, and business to serve the people of Alabama. Thank you Senators for serving well!!!

6/3/2019 Group Watch: Equal Pay Passes

Alabama joined the majority of other states in the union with the passage of an equal bay bill, (Mississippi is the only state left without one), which prohibits any business and employer from discriminating by paying a lesser amount for the same work to any person based solely on their gender or race. The bill provides exceptions for pay based on seniority, merit systems, systems that base earnings on quality or quantity of production or a differential based on any factor other than race or gender.

6/3/2019 Group Watch: Voters Get a Voice on School Governance

Voters will now decide how the state’s public education system is run with the passage of the bill sponsored by Senator Del March (R-Anniston). A constitutional amendment will be on the ballot in March 2020, that, if voted to enact, will abolish the current elected Board of Education and replace it with a governor-appointed and Senate-confirmed commission of nine members. The commission would then appoint a Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education in place of the current Sate Superintendent position. Finally, the commission would be required to develop a replacement for common core.

6/3/2019 Group Watch: Prison Special Session?

The legislature passed some legislation aimed fixing the issues plaguing the state’s prison system, but likely, didn’t go far enough. There’s a good chance that Governor Ivey will call a fall special session to tackle an overhaul of the prison system.

6/3/2019 Group Watch: Atlas V Rocket Part of Historic Mission

An Atlas V rocket poised to make history recently emerged from the United Launch Alliance manufacturing facility in Decatur and began a trek aboard a unique cargo ship to the legendary launch pad at Cape Canaveral. It is set to launch Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner on the Crew Flight Test mission to the International Space Station in what could be the first time an American-made rocket has carried U.S. astronauts to the orbiting laboratory since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011.

6/3/2019 Group Watch: Medical Marijuana Commission Coming

The efforts to legalize medical marijuana in Alabama got watered down by the end of the session, and the bill that finally passed simply calls for the formation of a study commission that will explore the issue and report back to lawmakers with policy recommendations at the end of this year. The commission will include at least four doctors, including an oncologist, an agriculture expert, a pharmacist and a mental health and/or substance abuse expert. The commission will also hold three public hearings over the coming months to share information with the public and get input. Originally, the bill would have made medical marijuana available to people with multiple medical conditions, but it met too much opposition to make it out of the House

6/3/2019 Group Watch: AL Lawmaker Dies

Last Friday, as the 2019 regular session closed, longtime lawmaker Jimmy Martin (R-Clanton) succumbed to his battle with cancer. He was 80 years old. He served in the House from 1998 to 2010 and was elected to the term he was currently serving in 2014, totally 17 years representing his district. All of us at The Bloom Group, and many, many others, will miss this fine statesman, and we send our sympathies to his family.

May 28, 2019 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The legislature is nearing the end of its 2019 regular session, and a bill that looked like it might have a chance for awhile is now officially dead.

Last week, disputes over distribution of funds and the unwavering opposition of two key groups killed the lottery bill, and there’s zero chance of resurrection at this point. There were objections from conservatives opposed to gambling as well as other holdouts who wanted protections for existing dog track operations in Greene and Macon counties.

Once again, this issue that keeps coming up, will not make it out of the State House and will not be decided by Alabama voters.

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