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May 11, 2012 Group Watch: This Week in the Legislature

Tuesday, the 27th day of the 2012 regular session: The House Ways and Means-Education Committee discussed, but took no action on, the $5.5 billion education budget, but approved a bill to provide tax breaks for developing large tourist attractions. The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill to establish the crime of home invasion. The Senate Finance and Taxation-General Fund Committee approved a $1.4 billion general fund budget. The Senate Job Creation and Economic Development Committee passed a bill to legalize making beer and wine at home. The House approved bills to allow the state to opt out of providing insurance coverage for abortions under a federal health care plan, to cutoff state pensions for public employees who commit crimes related to their governmental positions and to create a new pension plan for new public hire effective January 1, 2013. They also approved a package of bills aimed at making insurance for homeowners affordable and a bill to require school bus drivers to undergo additional physical and medical testing before getting behind the wheel. The Senate passed bills to clarify that the state’s health insurance program for educators can negotiate favorable prescription drug rates, making it a crime to impersonate a judge, and to renew the state’s severance tax on coal.  They also passed bills to provide tax credits to businesses that invest in poor neighborhoods and to allow the state transportation director to hire three deputy directors and a chief engineer outside the state merit system. They concurred with the House on a bill to provide $300 for supplies to every classroom teacher, but delayed action on a bill to create a state health insurance exchange as part of the federal healthcare law.

Wednesday, the 28th day of the regular session: The House Ways and Means Education Committee adopted a substitute budget for the Education Trust Fund, and the Permanent Legislative Committee on Reapportionment approved new legislative district maps for the House and Senate. The House approved bills to give the Alabama Sentencing Commission more power to set punishment standards for non-violent crimes, to deposit 10 percent of certain petroleum inspection fees in the Agriculture Fund, and to create tax credits for businesses investing in impoverished communities. They also passed bills to require motorists to move over one lane for stopped utility vehicles, to require abortion clinics to meet the same standards as outpatient centers and to allow beer to be sold in 25.4 ounce bottles. The Senate passed bills setting the maximum amount public officials can accept as gifts under the ethics law as items valued at $25 and to provide funding for the Domestic Violence Program and the Children First Appropriation. They discussed, but did not vote on, a bill to amend the state Immigration Act, but voted to reject repealing the law.

Thursday, the 29th meeting day of the session: The House Ways and Means-Education Committee carried over a Senate-passed charter schools bill, effectively killing it for this session. Read more here. The House passed bills to eliminate duplicate campaign finance reporting requirements, to make it a crime to possess a cell phone with the intent to deliver it to a prison inmate, and to authorize the state to reimburse counties for the expenses of running an election. They also gave final approval to a budget for the Education Trust Fund and bills to require metal recyclers to maintain additional records and to register with the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center as well as a bill that creates penalties for persons who possess certain stolen metals. Another bill given final approval provides relief for joint filers when one of them has liability that the other has become responsible for. The House changes to the budget were rejected by the Senate, and it now goes to a conference committee to resolve the differences. The Senate passed a $1.4 billion General Fund budget, which also appears headed to a conference committee. The Senate also passed bills to provide tax incentives for tourist attractions that locate in the state, to allow alcoholic beverage sales at state parks within a lodge, to tax cigar wrapping, and to extend a moratorium on solid waste landfills to May 31, 2014.

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