March 16, 2020 Group Watch: Gov Ivey Declares State of Emergency

Governor Ivey declared a state of emergency in Alabama on Friday after the state saw its first confirmed cases of coronavirus. Multiple steps have been taken in response, including the closing of Alabama’s public K-12 schools, effective March 18. No doubt many private schools will follow suit. Public schools are currently expected to resume classes by April 6. Earlier in the week, before the state’s first case, Ivey had released a letter to the heads of all state government agencies with guidance on how to deal with the likely eventuality of coronavirus making it to Alabama. Ivey asked each department head to make sure they have a plan to continue offering services should the virus be detected in Alabama. The governor stated that the safety and welfare of all Alabamians is her paramount concern and pledged to work with leaders throughout to limit exposure. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has awarded the state $8.1 million to help fight the spread of the coronavirus

March 16, 2020 Group Watch: Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Bill

Following hours of debate on Thursday, the Alabama Senate approved a bill allowing the use of marijuana to treat certain medical conditions with a vote of 22 to 11. It now moves to the House. The bill prohibits smoking and vaping marijuana as well as ingesting it through edibles like gummies. It also calls for the formation of a statewide commission to oversee and license medical marijuana facilities and manage a patient registry. Several amendments ensure that Alabama farmers and Alabama businesses are first in line to benefit from the business side of making medical marijuana legal in the state. Read more here.

 

March 16, 2020 Group Watch: Education Lottery Bill Introduced

Rep. Steve Clouse of Ozark filed an education lottery bill with 70 of the 105 members of the House as co-sponsors. The bill proposes a paper-based lottery that is said to be able to generate about $167 million each year, with 50 percent of the proceeds going to fund the Pre-K program and the other half for scholarships. Video terminals will not be allowed under this bill. The bill will also provide for charity bingo and pari-mutuel wagering on horse or dog racing that were approved prior to January 1, 2005. Clouse said he wants the lottery on the ballot for November 2020.

March 16, 2020 Group Watch: Bobbie Knight Named Miles College President

Bobbie Knight has been named permanent president of Miles College by the school’s board of trustees. Knight, who served as interim president since last summer, becomes the school’s 15thpresident and its first female president effective immediately. Knight retired from Alabama Power after a 37-year career, which included her last position with the utility company as senior vice present. In January of this year, she helped land the largest single gift in school history from NBA legend and Auburn alum Charles Barkley of $1 million. Florida State alum and former Heisman winner Jameis Winston donated $50,000 to the football program.

March 16, 2020 Group Watch: Senate Approves Air Force Base Development Bill

The Alabama Senate approved a bill aimed at encouraging development around Air Force bases like Maxwell-Gunter in Montgomery. The Senate gave final passage to a House-passed bill by Rep. Thad McClammy of Montgomery by a vote of 29-0 with no debate. The bill allows cities to create authorities aimed at rehabilitating property contiguous to Air Force bases. The authority would allow the issuance of bonds for the development of a district. Members within a district could be exempted from state, county and local taxes, or the authority could collect payment in lieu of taxes. The bill now goes to the governor who is expected to sign it.

March 16, 2020 Group Watch: Auto Supplier Plans Expansion in Selma

Seoyon E-Hwa Interior Systems, a Tier 1 supplier to the Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama assembly plant, announced plans to invest more than $5 million to expand its industrial operation in Dallas County. The company will add 60 jobs to its current workforce of 436 in Selma, which makes the company one of the county’s largest employers. Seoyon E-Hwa’s expansion project is expected to get underway in April, with potential completion by the end of September. The company’s total investment will be $5.14 million.

March 16, 2020 Group Watch: House Approves School Yoga Bill

The Alabama House approved a bill that would allow yoga to be offered in the state’s public schools after a 27-year ban. The bill was approved 84 to 17 after a brief debate. The bill would allow local boards of education to offer yoga as an elective. The practice would be limited to poses, stretches and exercises. The legislation prohibits the use of “chanting, mantras, mudras, mandalas and Namaste greetings”. The bill passed with broad bipartisan support.

March 9, 2020 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The fifth week of session was a busy one. Multiple local bills were passed, and it ended with one contentious bill being signed into law (see more info below). The governor’s gambling study group also got started on its work. Read our wrap-up of other activity.

  • Tuesday, March 3 (9th day of session): The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee approved several bills, including a House-passed bill to exempt from competitive bid certain leases of goods and services by local boards of education, a Senate-sponsored bill on the same matter, and to require nonprofit corporations to get approval from the Public Service Commission before raising water rates and to require the entity to be audited by the Department of Examiners of public Accounts. The House passed general bills to allow for post-adoption agreements for contact between an adopted child and biological relatives; to provide further for the filing of a statement of economic interest by candidates for municipal office; and to authorize financial institutions to refuse to execute or delay execution of certain transactions involving accounts of elderly and vulnerable adults in matters relating to exploitation. The Senate had vigorous debate over procedural matters before adjourning for the day without passing any bills.
  • Wednesday, March 4 (committee day): The House Education Policy Committee approved bills to create a Teacher Bill of Rights; to authorize local boards of education to offer yoga to students; and to provide mental health service coordinators for local school systems to a legislative appropriation. The House Insurance Committee approved a bill to require hospitals to bill an injured person’s health insurance and only seek payment from the insurer unless certain circumstances apply. The House Ethics and Campaign Finance Committee approved a bill to allow former public officials/employees to work for the same or other public employer. The House Boards, Agencies and Commissions Committee approved a number of Senate-passed sunset bills to continue the operation of the approved entities. The Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee approved two House-passed bills to authorize economic development of property adjacent to a U.S. Air Force Base and to authorize business and nonprofit entities to elect to become benefit corporations. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill to indemnify design professionals under certain circumstances. The Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee approved and amended a bill to provide for $1 billion for the Public School and College Authority. The committee amendment added $250 million to the original bill.
  • Thursday, March 5 (10th day of session): The House passed a few bills of local application only and general bills to create the Alabama STEM Council as an independent state entity within the Department of Commerce and to allow up to $1,500 of interest and dividend on a simplified individual income tax. The Senate passed already passed House bills to further for the definition of landfill cover and to require permanency plans for children when termination of parental rights is being considered by the court. They also passed general bills to provide for nurse practitioners and nurse midwives to serve rural clientele; to require doctors to obtain parental consent regarding a minor in cases involving “do not resuscitate orders,” and to further provide for the deployment of small wireless facilities.

The House and Senate return on Tuesday, March 10, at 1 pm and 2 pm respectively.

March 9, 2020 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

@3M
March 4
Our highest priority is the safety of our people and the public during the #coronavirus. Watch as 3M Safety leader Dr. Nikki McCullough shows the right way to wear a N95 respirator. https://cnb.cx/39pl3EO

March 9, 2020 Group Watch: Gov’s Gambling Study Group Gets Started

A group appointed by Governor Ivey to study the amount of tax revenue and other consequences that would result from a lottery, casinos and other forms of gambling in Alabama has begun its work. The 12-member group is chaired by former Montgomery mayor Todd Strange. Group members signed a pledged saying they would not profit from their participation and had no known conflicts of interest. The governor has taken a hands-off approach to gambling issues. She has said she does not believe gambling is a good way to fund government services but also says she’s not opposed to a ballot referendum on the issues. The group is looking to learn what forms of gambling are possible and the benefits, revenue, costs and governance structure associated with each, studying the best practices from other states.

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