5/1/2107 Group Watch: Governor’s Race Growing

Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox is considering a run for Alabama governor. That’s the word after Maddox commented on a recent radio show that “It is too early to tell.” Maddox, who often re-tweets people suggesting he should run for governor, said he and his family will consider those factors and said he appreciates the support he’s already received from citizens. Maddox, who has been mayor since 2005, was re-elected to a fourth term during an election in March by defeating his challenger in a landslide. He has been praised for his economic development work and his handling of the aftermath of the deadly 2011 tornadoes that hit Tuscaloosa.

April 24, 2017 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The Alabama Legislature returned to work on Tuesday, April 18 for the 18th day of the session, and some Republican senators gathered support for a constitutional amendment to change the role of lieutenant governor (see below). Here’s what else they got done.

  • On Tuesday (18th day of session): The House passed bills to prohibit the state from discriminating against childcare service providers under certain circumstances; to require the Alabama Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission to adopt policies to require law enforcement to use only reasonable force; to authorize an income tax credit for the rehabilitation of historic buildings; to regulate fantasy content; to provide for consumer protection measures; and final passage of a Senate-passed bill to require future high school graduates to pass a civic test.  The Senate approved general bills to allow capital defendants to elect to be executed by firing squad; to allow persons to possess and carry a firearm without a permit; and to prohibit voters from switching parties between primary elections.
  • On Wednesday (a committee day): The House Health Committee approved a bill to authorize certain loan repayment practices for advanced practice nurses. The Senate Judiciary Committeeapproved a House-passed bill to authorize designated members to carry firearms as part of a church protection program and a bill to provide civil immunity to a person rescuing a child or incapacitated person. The Senate Jefferson County Local Legislation Committee approved bills to lower the percent of investments in fixed income securities and to revise the operations of the Birmingham retirement and relief system.
  • On Thursday (19th day of session): The House passed bills of local application only and general bills to mandate coverage of autism spectrum disorder under certain conditions and to add regulatory requirements for all childcare facilities. The Senate passed House-passed bills to authorize healthcare providers to decline to perform services that violate their consciences; to prohibit assisted suicide; to affirm the state’s commitment to the right to life of unborn children; and to provide absentee voting without explanation.

4/24/17 Group Watch: Senators Propose Changing Lt. Gov. Role

A dozen Republican state senators are signed on as supporters of a proposal to change the Alabama Constitution so that the governor and lieutenant governor would run on the same ticket and serve as a team, like the president and vice president. The proposal, if approved by the legislature, would require approval by voters and would remove the lieutenant governor’s role as president of the state Senate. Senator Gerald Dial said the state would benefit by having a lieutenant governor who could work on behalf of the governor and stand in for the governor on initiatives like recruiting industries. Under the proposed amendment, the Senate would elect a president from its members, like the House elects a speaker.

4/24/17 Group Watch: Former House Speaker Joe McCorquodale Dead at 96

It was announced last week that former Alabama House Speaker Joseph C. McCorquodale had died on Monday at the age of 96. Speaker McCorquodale, a native of Clarke County, was a member of the Alabama House of Representative for 24 years. He was House Speaker from 1975 to 1983. He ran for governor in 1982 but lost to George C. Wallace. Current Governor Kay Ivey was a House reading clerk when McCorquodale was speaker and says he set a high bar for honest leadership. He was also a veteran of World War II.

4/24/17 Group Watch: Presidential Welcome

President Donald Trump called Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Thursday evening to congratulate her on being sworn in as governor of the state. It was not disclosed what else the two leaders discussed. Earlier in the day, the governor met with law enforcement officers from around the state and had breakfast with the mayors of the state’s five largest cities.

4/24/17 Group Watch: Ivey’s Hometown Reminisces

Residents of Governor Kay Ivey’s hometown, Camden, Ala., share memories of her and express their pride in this article and collection of short videos.

April 17, 2017 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The Alabama Legislature returned to work on Tuesday, April 11 for the 16th day of the session. A proposed gas tax didn’t make it very far, and we got a new governor. Here are a few other highlights:

  • On Tuesday (16th day of session): The House Transportation, Utilities and Infrastructure Committee met and approved a bill to increase gasoline taxes to be used for road and bridge repairs. The House approved several bills of local application only, including two bills affecting the lowering of percent of investments in fixed income securities for the Birmingham Firemen and Policeman’s Supplemental pension System and revising the operation of the Birmingham retirement and relief system. They passed a general bill to authorize certain correctional officers, firefighters and law enforcement officers to retire with full benefits after 25 years. The Senate passed several bills of local application only and general bills to increase the income tax credits for rural physicians and dentists; the Alabama Renewal Act, which provides extended tax credits for newly qualified broadband telecommunication network facilities; to further specify that schools and churches are protected against threats of terror; and final approval of a House-passed bill to authorize the Community College System to acquire and dispose of property.
  • On Wednesday (a committee day): The House Insurance Committee approved insurance coverage under certain circumstance for those with autism spectrum disorder. The House State Government Committee approved a bill providing for the qualifications of the Secretary of Early Childhood Education. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved bills to make it unlawful to inquire from a job applicant information relating to arrests or convictions of crimes with certain exceptions as well as House-passed bills to provide additional requirements for violations of restrictions on Stage II driver’s licenses and to authorize the Department of Revenue to tax additional steps to combat identity theft of tax refunds. The Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee approved a bill to provide a one-time lump sum retirement payment in December 2017 to retirees in the Teachers’ Retirement System. The Jefferson County Local Legislation Committee approved a bill relating to the salary of the city council in Birmingham.
  • On Thursday (17th day of session): The House attempted for several hours, without success, to get the procedural votes to allow them to consider a proposed gas tax, after which, they adjourned. The Senate passed several bills of local application only, including some House-passed bills. They also passed general bills to exempt from sales and use tax certain adaptive devices for the blind; to authorize the Department of Revenue to employ auctioneers for the sale of state land; and to authorize judges to use discretionary funds to provide therapy dogs in the courtroom with vulnerable witnesses.

4/17/2017 Group Watch: Governor Kay Ivey Sworn In

Lt. Governor Kay Ivey was sworn in last Monday as Alabama governor by acting Chief Justice Lyn Stuart after the resignation of former Governor Robert Bentley at the Capital in Montgomery. Ivey is the second woman to serve as governor of the state and the only woman to serve as both Lt. governor and governor of the state. Alabama’s only other female governor, Lurleen B. Wallace, served only 16 months in office before her death in May 1968. Governor Ivey is a native of Camden in Wilcox County. She is a graduate of Auburn University and worked as a high school teacher and banker before leaving to serve in the cabinet of Governor Fob James. She served as director of governmental affairs and communications for the Alabama Commission on Higher Education before running for state treasurer in 2002 and subsequently being reelected in 2006. Ivey was elected Lt. Governor in 2010 and reelected in 2014.

Up Your Gov IQ
Check out this article on ALToday.com that outlines a few things you may not know about our new governor.

4/17/2017 Group Watch: Gas Tax is Dead

House Speaker Mac McCutcheon proclaimed the plan to raise the state tax on gasoline and diesel to pay for infrastructure improvements as “dead” on Thursday. The bill was pulled because it did not have the votes to clear a procedural hurdle. Bill Poole of Tuscaloosa, the bill’s sponsor, said it would have passed if the procedural hurdle had been cleared. The bill would have raised the tax on gas and diesel 4 cents a gallon on September 1, with another hike of 2 cents on September 1, 2019. Under the bill, the legislation would have had the option of raising the tax an additional 3 cents a gallon on September 1, 2024 through a joint House and Senate resolution. The bill is not likely to be considered again until at least after the 2018 election.

April 10, 2017 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The Alabama Legislature returned to work on Tuesday, April 4 for the 14th day of the session, following a two-week break. Debate on the Education Trust Fund Budget dominated the Senate on Tuesday. Here are a few other highlights:

  • On Tuesday (14th day of session): The House passed a couple of bills of local application only and general bills to prohibit a court from overriding a unanimous jury verdict and to require tax preparers to provide federal identification on Alabama income tax returns; to exempt counties and municipalities such as water works from competitive bids for repair of heavy equipment or vehicles when the repair is performed by an authorized dealer or service center; and to revise the process by which local governments approve new municipal solid waste facilities.  The Senate debated the Education Trust Fund Budget and finally passed it as well as a supplemental appropriation for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and a bill to provide tuition assistance to the dependents of veterans.
  • On Wednesday (a committee day): The House Ways and Means Education Committee approved bills to exempt from sales and use tax the proceeds from the sale of gold, silver and platinum bullion and coins; to provide exemptions from state and local sales and use tax certain public water, sewer, gas, electric and fire protection authorities, boards and systems; and to authorize an income tax credit for rehabilitation of historic buildings. The House Ways and Means General Fund Committee approved bills to authorize the use of proceeds from the Circuit Clerk’s Judicial Administration Fund for pay raises for circuit clerks and to exclude from lodging tax areas not used for lodging.  The Jefferson County Legislation Committee approved bills relating to the investment of funds in the Birmingham Fireman and Policemen’s Supplemental Pension System and revisions to the operations of the Birmingham retirement and relief system. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill to authorize a mayor to remit court costs under certain circumstances.
  • On Thursday (15th day of session): The House passed everal bills of local application only and general bills to provide certain exemptions from workers’ compensation and to establish an optional increased standard deduction for qualifying taxpayers. They also gave final approval to a Senate-passed bill referred to as the “Tax Exemption Reform Act of 2017.” The Senate passed several bills of local application only and general bills to exempt the Southern Research Institute in Birmingham from state, county and local taxes and to require appeals of board of zoning adjustment decisions be filed with circuit court.
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