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March 28, 2012 Group Watch: Last Week in the Legislature

Tuesday, the 14th meeting day of the 2012 regular session: The House passed two bills that would alter the organizational structure of the Department of Transportation to allow the director to appoint three deputy directors and a chief engineer. They also approved bills to make looting a crime, to reimburse Mobile County for extra expenses caused by a presidential primary in 2008 that was on the same day as Mardi Gras Day and to make it a crime to impersonate a local official or law enforcement officer. They debated at length a bill to establish minimum qualifications for sheriffs in Alabama but did not vote on it and approved a resolution mourning the death of Ricky Wyatt, who was the plaintiff in a long running lawsuit against the Department of Mental Health.

The Senate Finance and Taxation-General Fund Committee voted to approve a supplemental appropriation of $45 million to the Department of Correction to protect it against budget cuts. That Department is said to be dangerously close to federal intervention. The full Senate gave final approval to bills that give tax credits to businesses that hire unemployed veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and to change the name of the state’s industry recruiting office from the Alabama Development Office to the Department of Commerce. Both bills now go to the governor, who is expected to sign them into law.

Wednesday, a committee day: The House Ways and Means-Education Committee conducted a public hearing on a bill that would allow the creation of charter schools in Alabama but did not vote on the measure. The House Constitution, Campaigns and Elections Committee voted favorably on a bill to change the manner in which legislative members are compensated. The Senate Constitution and Elections Committee also voted favorably on a bill to change the way legislators are compensated and a bill that would allow the recall of public officials.

The Senate Finance and Taxation-General Fund Committee approved a bill to reduce the amount future retirees will receive and increase the number required before they can retire. The measure would affect public workers hired on and after January 1, 2013. The Senate Confirmations Committee also approved the appointment of three incumbent members of the Auburn University Board of Trustees.

Thursday, the 15th day of the session: The House passed a number of Senate-passed bills to continue the existence of state agencies, boards and commissions. They also passed bills to exempt items used to treat diabetes, such as syringes and insulin, from state, county and municipal sales and use taxes and make the continuous sexual abuse of a young person a crime. The Senate gave final approval to a House-passed bill to allow aircraft companies to take advantage of incentives offered to companies that create jobs. They also passed bills to expand the ways state deposits may be invested, setting certain minimum standards for sheriffs, to set limits on how much of a state employee’s unused sick leave can be accumulated and paid at retirement, to stop police officers from racial profiling when stopping a motorist for possible traffic violations, to set sentencing guidelines for Alabama judges and to establish the crime of looting in times that a state of emergency has been declared.

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