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April 20, 2012 Group Watch: This Week in the Legislature

Tuesday (the 20th meeting day of the 2012 regular session): The House Public safety and Homeland Security Committee approved a bill to make changes to the state immigration law. The Senate Constitution and Elections Committee approved bills to allow state employees and public school employees to receive gifts worth $25 or less, and to raise the annual salary level that requires public employees to file an annual financial disclosure form from $50,000 to $75,000. The House passed bills making it a crime to have sexual relations with an animal, allowing certain precious metals to be stored in Alabama warehouses, to allow restaurants to put cork back on a bottle of wine and send it home with the customer, and to establish a sales tax holiday for the purchase of items like generators and weather radios needed to prepare for bad weather. It also approved bills that ban lawsuits against restaurants and other companies claiming the company caused a person to gain weight, prohibit inmates from having access to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, and remove ectopic pregnancies from the list of procedures that doctors and hospitals have to report as types of pregnancies. The Senate approved a heavily amended bill to tie legislators’ compensation to the state’s median household income but delayed consideration of several bills addressing homeowners’ insurance.

Wednesday (a committee day): The House Constitution, Campaigns and Elections Committee discussed, but took no action on, a proposed constitutional amendment to allow display of the Ten Commandments in state buildings. The House Commerce and Small Business Committee held a public hearing on a bill to give the state a uniform, statewide regulation of fireworks. The House Ways and Means-Education Committee approved a Senate-passed bill to give teachers $300 for classroom supplies. The House Ways and Means-General Fund Committee approved a Senate-passed bill providing a supplemental appropriation for prisons as well as funds for a woman who was wrongfully incarcerated. The House Education Policy Committee approved a bill to change the mandatory age for children to attend school from 7 to 6 years old. The Senate Health Committee approved bills to require the “morning after pill” be administered in the presence of a physician and to allow limited sales of baked goods, canned jellies and jams, and dried herbs from home businesses. The Senate Education Committee amended that chamber’s charter school bill to require more stringent reporting requirements. The Senate Finance and Taxation-Education approved an education budget.

Thursday: The House passed bills to make changes to the state’s immigration law, to establish a uniform grading system for evaluating the performance of schools and systems in Alabama, and to allow litigants in a civil case to take depositions and conduct discovery in another state. They also approved a conference committee report on legislative pay. The Senate approved a number of bills of local application only. Additionally, it approved general bills to allow pharmacies to sell cold and allergy medicine with ephedrine or pseudoephedrine and to allow businesses destroyed by tornadoes last April to keep their tax breaks if they have to move to a new location to reopen.

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