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April 13, 2012 Group Watch: This Week in the Legislature

Tuesday (the 18th day of the 2012 regular session): The House Ways and Means Committee approved a bill just introduced last Thursday that authorizes charter schools in Alabama. This is the second bill on this matter approved by the committee in two weeks. After hours of debate, the House approved a $1.39 billion General Fund budget, which is $400 million less than the current fiscal year. They also approved spending measures for recipients in The Children First Trust Fund and the Coalition for Domestic Violence.  The Senate confirmed five new trustees for Auburn University: Birmingham attorney James Pratt, Auburn banker Robert Dumas, Montgomery businessman Clark Sahlie, Mobile real estate mogul Ben Thomas Roberts and Birmingham attorney Elizabeth Huntley, who resides in Clanton. They also approved bills to establish a new pension plan for public employees hired on and after January 1, 2013; to provide $2.3 million to the state Department of Education to ensure all of Alabama’s 1,848 teachers and principals with certification from the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards get the $5,000 salary supplement they were promised; to provide training and continuing education for members of city and county school boards; and to streamline the process for businesses filing tax returns with cities and counties.

Wednesday (a committee day): The Senate Finance and Taxation-Education Committee approved a bill to let Athens State University have its own board rather than be regulated by the State Board of Education. The Senate Finance and Taxation-General Fund Committee passed a bill to make sure businesses destroyed by the April 2011 tornadoes keep their state abatements if they have to move to a new location to reopen. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on a bill to repeal the state’s immigration law but did not vote on the measure. The House and Senate Judiciary Committees approved bills to create the crime of looting after a natural disaster and to make changes to the Alabama Athlete Agent law. The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee held a public hearing on a bill to make changes to the state’s immigration law but did not vote on the measure. The House Judiciary Committee passed a bill to revise Alabama’s system of sentencing.

Thursday: The House passed a bill to allow schools to be flexible with schedules to start later in the summer and extend summer vacations for some families. The vote was 62-20. The Senate voted 23-3 to give final approval to a bill aimed at restoring a settlement over the state’s financially troubled prepaid college tuition plan. The House also passed bills to allow the United Ways of Alabama to participate in the state employee insurance program; to make it a crime to fail to report a missing child, the death of a child and falsely reporting to law enforcement about such children; to extend the termination date for the distribution for coal excise and privilege taxes, and to prohibit the issuance by ADEM for solid waste landfill permits until after May 31, 2014.

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