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April 27, 2012 Group Watch: This Week in the Legislature

Tuesday (the 22nd meeting day of the 2012 regular session): The House passed bills to establish a single electronic system that businesses may use to file or pay state and local sales taxes, use taxes and rental and lease taxes, and requiring the posting of a human trafficking hotline telephone number in massage parlors, inexpensive hotels, strip clubs and similar establishments. They failed to achieve the required votes to consider a bill to require all school superintendents to be appointed and not elected. The Senate Job Creation and Economic Development Committee approved a bill to make limited changes in the state’s immigration law. The Senate approved bills to ban texting while driving, with some exceptions, and to prohibit insurance plans through a health insurance exchange in Alabama from providing coverage for elective abortions. They also approved bills to provide tax breaks to Alabama homeowners who set up catastrophe savings accounts to cover a high deductible on home owners insurance and to require homeowners’ insurance companies to provide premium and loss information by zip codes and counties to the state Insurance Department, which will post it on the web.

Wednesday (a committee day): The House Ways and Means-General Fund Committee approved bills to raise court fees by $23 million per year and to exempt dormant businesses from a tax for the privilege of doing business in Alabama. They also conducted a public hearing on a bill to add a $1 cigarette tax but did not vote. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a House-passed immigration bill with some changes and a House-passed bill dealing with scrap metal sales.

Thursday: The House passed a number of local bills and general bills to legalize home brewing of beer, wine and cider and to require new construction at colleges and universities containing dorm rooms and classrooms to have state-approved safe rooms. The Senate, like the House, approved a number of bills of local application only. Additionally, they approved bills to make it easier for independent and third party candidates to get on the ballot, to clarify the state ethics law by allowing state workers and education employees to receive a gift worth $50 or less, and to approve a House-passed measure saying that terminating an ectopic pregnancy doesn’t count as an abortion under state law, and doctors are not required to report the terminations to the state health department like they do abortions.

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