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May 4, 2012 Group Watch: This Week in the Legislature

Tuesday, the 24th meeting day of the 2012 regular session: The House passed bills to change the mandatory school attendance age from 7 to 6 years old, to allow schools to use electronic devices like Kindle in the place of textbooks and to establish tax incentives for tourist attractions. They also approved bills to require health insurance companies to offer coverage for certain treatments for autism and to create the Alabama Cyber Technology Authority to encourage the cooperation of higher education, business and government in developing and supporting cyber technology projects in Alabama. The Senate joined the House in giving final approval to a bill saying schools can’t start more than two weeks before Labor Day and must end before Memorial Day and passing an education budget. They also passed bills to provide tax breaks for developing tourism destinations and updates of two articles of the state Constitution dealing with corporations and banking. The proposed constitutional amendments will be on the ballot in November for a vote of the people.

Wednesday, a committee day and the 25th meeting day of the session: The House Health Committee approved bills to make it harder to get an abortion in Alabama. The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee approved a bill to extend the period for renewing a driver’s license to six months before the license is due to expire. The House Ways and Means Education Committee approved a bill changing the way Auburn trustees are selected. The Senate Health Committee held a public hearing but did not vote on a bill saying life begins at fertilization of an egg and implantation in the womb. The House approved bills to allow the sale of alcoholic beverages in the lodge of Joe Wheeler State Park and to establish a council to consider the problem of elder abuse. The Senate joined the House in giving final approval to a bill to allow public employees’ overtime pay to count toward their state pensions and approved a bill to legalize charter schools and give traditional public schools more flexibility in following state regulations.

Thursday, the 26th meeting day of the session: The House spent much of the day stalled by the dilatory tactics of Democratic members trying to slow down consideration of various measures. By the midnight adjournment, they passed bills to provide Alabama restaurants incentives for buying products from the state, to allow the state’s Parking Deck Authority to build a new parking deck for the Gordon Persons Office Building for state employees in Montgomery, and to allow spouses of military service members to expedite any professional licenses or certificates when the spouse is transferred to Alabama. They also approved a bill raising court fees and to require insurance companies to more clearly describe to homeowners what their policies do and don’t do. The Senate approved bills creating the crime of looting during a state of emergency, to make it a crime for a daycare worker to leave a child unattended in a vehicle, and to create the crime of computer tampering. They also approved bills to make it a misdemeanor offense to use the Internet or email to impersonate another person with the intent of harming, intimidating, threatening or defrauding someone and to give new taxing authority to the Jefferson County Commission to address the county’s bankruptcy.

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