April 4, 2022 Group Watch: Telehealth Bill Passes Senate

A bill officially authorizing telehealth and telemedicine in Alabama passed the state Senate last week, marking the first piece of legislation regulating digital access to healthcare for Alabamians. The bill, sponsored by Senator Dan Roberts, R-Mountain Brook, would limit the number of virtual visits citizens could use to four times every 12 months for the same illness. The number of telehealth visits between patients and doctors would reset if an individual seeks care for another illness. Prescriptions of controlled substances are prohibited under the bill, and all patient-physician relationships established via telehealth must be initiated by the patient to prevent fraud and exploitation. The bill, a substitute of a previously filed version, passed unanimously and now moves to the House Health Committee for consideration.

April 4, 2022 Group Watch: Experienced Educators Looking at Increased Pay

In an attempt to keep good teachers working in Alabama’s classrooms, a plan to give pay raises ranging from 10-20 percent to teachers with nine or more years experience is moving through the legislature. If the plan passes, all teachers will get a 4 percent raise, but those with a longer tenure would get double-digit salary increases. Read more here. 

April 4, 2022 Group Watch: Gov. Transfers $276M In ARPA Funds For Broadband Expansion

Governor Ivey announced that the state’s portion of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding designated for broadband expansion has successfully been transferred to the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA). By way of a memorandum of understanding, ADECA will be the state agency that oversees the administration of the $276 million. The legislature made the funding appropriation during the special session in January. ADECA will deploy the funds through the department’s Alabama Digital Expansion Division via grant programs to provide high-speed internet access to under-served portions of the state.

April 4, 2022 Group Watch: Tenax Plans $1M in Upgrades, New Jobs At Conecuh Co. Plant

Tenax Corp. plans to invest $1 million in improvements and new production machinery at its manufacturing facility in Evergreen, where it has operated for three decades. Tenax will create 8-12 new jobs tied to a new initiative to make the Evergreen facility more efficient and environmentally friendly. The project is expected to be complete by fall 2022. Maryland-based Tenax is known for its trademark orange plastic safety fencing at building sites, a product that has inspired many imitators. The company also makes specialty products for netting, pipe protection, construction, agriculture, gardening and DIY applications.

April 4, 2022 Group Watch: Alabama’s Innovation Economy Sees Strength In Inclusion

Alabama’s innovation economy will not reach its full potential unless it is inclusive. That was the message from Alabama Director Bill Poole who chairs the board of the Alabama Innovation Corporation. Poole said the innovation economy needs input from women and other groups to ensure that all ideas are being captured and all are being represented as the state pulls in unison to grow in areas of entrepreneurship, technology, research and development, and the broader knowledge-based economy. The Corporation board includes two women, including Gov. Ivey and Alabama native Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. secretary of state and director of the Hoover Institution. Poole said there are a number ways Alabama can grow the innovation economy, but one key will be to convince more college graduates to remain in Alabama.

March 28, 2022 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

A lot of funding legislation got passed the week before last (and the legislature was out for Spring Break last week.) The House passed the General Fund Budget and appropriations bills to fund the Children First Trust Fund and the Coalition Against Domestic Violence. It also passed the bill that will give a 4-percent raise to state workers. On the flip-side, a Senate committee passed a bill that’s already passed the House and that will, if signed into law, eventually eliminate the state business privilege tax.

Week before last also saw some more controversy, with a bill to stop the teaching of “divisive topics” being passed by the House despite strong opposition from Democrats when it was still in committee.

And more positive economic development announcements came in too, representing millions of dollars in investments and thousands of new jobs. More Alabama political news is below, so read on.

The House and Senate were on Spring Break last week and return on Tuesday, March 29 at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., respectively.

March 28, 2022 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

@alabamapolicy
March 22
Casinos are illegally operating in our state, so let’s reward the operators with a monopoly i.e. SB293/SB294 #alpolitics #stopcasinocorruption #StopTheCartel

March 28, 2022 Group Watch: Legislature Day-by-Day, Play-by-Play

Tuesday, 22nd day of regular session: 
  • The House State Government Committee approved a bill to prohibit the teaching of certain concepts relating to race, sex or religion in certain training.
  • The House passed the General fund budget for most state agencies as well as accompanying appropriations bills to provide for a 4-percent raise for state workers, a one-time bonus for retirees, the Children First Trust Fund and the Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
  • The Senate Local Legislation Committee passed a number of bills of local application only.
  • The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee approved several bills, including a bill to further provide for the authority of the Attorney General to enter into settlement agreements.
  • The Senate debated several bills before carrying them over but voted affirmatively on several bills, including bills to allow the Alabama Athlete Agents Commission to meet virtually under certain conditions; to authorize county tax assessors to defend the state in tax valuation disputes; and to authorize the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency to apply for wiretapping permission in drug kingpin cases.
Wednesday, a committee-only day:
  • The House Ways and Means General Fund Committee approved bills to increase the per-semester loan repayment award for qualified math and science teachers and a Senate-passed bill to phase out the business privilege tax.
  • The House State Government Committee approved a bill relating to the Board of Optometric Scholarship Awards to allow the board to conduct meetings remotely and to expand the scholarship program to include loans to further optometric training.
  • The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee approved a bill to provide prohibitions on the enforcement of certain presidential executive orders that provide certain limitations or restrictions on the ownership, use or possession of firearms and accessories and ammunition.
  • The House Economic Development and Tourism Committee approved a bill to establish the Alabama Education Lottery Gambling Commission for the regulation of the Alabama Education Lottery.
  • The Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee approved a House-passed bill to phase out the business privilege tax.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill to limit the amount of money a municipality may retain from fines and penalties generated from traffic tickets.
Thursday, 23rd day of regular session:
  • The House passed a number of bills of local application only before taking up a three-bill package relating to elections, absentee voting and poll watchers. It also passed general bills to prevent the teaching of divisive concepts; to further provide for the licensing and regulation of cemetery authorities and cemeteries; to further provide for the determination of compensation claims by the Crime Victims Compensation Commission; and to authorize meetings of governmental bodies by virtual means.
  • The Senate passed a large number of local bills by lunchtime, took a break, and then returned to pass several general bills, including final passage of House-passed bills to establish consistency in the process of commitment of individuals with mental illnesses and to establish the state Seal of Biliteracy to recognize the proficiency in English and at least one world language, including American sign language. It also approved bills to authorize online public auctions for collection of delinquent property taxes and to further provide for operational and categorical funding of public charter schools.

March 28, 2022 Group Watch: Senate Approves Increased Tax Credit for Scholarships

The Alabama Senate passed a bill amending the Alabama Accountability Act of 2013 to increase the income tax credit that can be claimed by an Alabama taxpayer. Since the passage of the original legislation in 2013, more than $176 million has been raised from the private sector to provide for educational opportunities for students. The changes are designed to give scholarship granting organizations (SGOs) more consistency in their budgeting and planning in two ways. One, it gives the SGOs more time to spend the scholarship funds: three years in stead of just one. And bill supporters believe that upping the tax credit for donors could lead to more donations. Under current Alabama law, a taxpayer may claim a tax credit amounting to 100 percent of the total contributions the taxpayer made to a scholarship granting organization for educational scholarships during the taxable year for which the credit is claimed, up to 50 percent of the tax liability of the taxpayer, not to exceed $50,000 per taxpayer or a cumulative amount of $30,000,000 annually. This bill bumps the credit up to 100 percent of the individual taxpayer’s liability, in an amount not to exceed $100,000.

March 28, 2022 Group Watch: Session Is Winding Down But Still Work to Do

There are only seven legislative days left in the 2022 regular session, and with plenty of work to do, both the House and Senate will need every bit of the time left. Two big items still in limbo are both the education and general fund budgets. The gambling bills are not yet dead, but the clock is ticking. And changes to the state’s curriculum are still on hanging out there too. Read more here.

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