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March 15, 2013 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The Alabama Legislature returned to work on Tuesday for the 12th day of the session. Both chambers were subjected to slowdown tactics due to the Democrats’ disapproval of the Alabama Accountability Act.

Tuesday: The House voted 98-0 to give final passage to a bill to provide tax credits for irrigation equipment and voted 98-0 to approve a bill related to the exemption of certain aviation fuel purchases from excise and sales taxes. The Senate passed a bill to allocate up to $50 million one time from a pending tobacco settlement to the state General Fund. They also passed the Children First appropriation for FY 14 as recommended by the governor and a $1.75 billion General Fund budget for non-education agencies of state government. The 22-9 vote on the budget was along partisan lines. The budget provides for $615 million for the Alabama Medicaid Agency, the same as the current year, a $22 million increase for the Department of Corrections, a $1 million increase for the judicial system and an $8 million increase to the Department of Human Resources. Two bills passed earlier in the session by the Senate and amended by the House won final approval by the Senate when they concurred with the changes. One of those measures consolidates law enforcement and public safety into one mega agency, and the other creates a new position in the governor’s cabinet to oversee information technology for state agencies. Both measures are heralded as streamlining and reducing the cost of government going forward.

Wednesday (a committee day): The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would add language about operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs to the law on criminal negligent homicide in cases of fatal accidents. The Senate Education Committee delayed indefinitely consideration of a bill to repeal the state’s common core curriculum standards. The bill’s sponsor moved to kill his own bill rather than accept amendments that he thought would weaken his intent. The same committee approved a bill to remove the head of the Alabama Education Association from the board of control for the Teacher’s Retirement System of Alabama. The bill’s sponsor proposes to add a higher education representative. The committee vote was along party lines. The Senate Finance and Taxation-General Fund Committee approved a bill to allow private companies to run the lodging facilities and golf courses at Alabama state parks. The House Health Committee approved a bill to require the Department of Public Health to develop information for breast cancer patients about treatment options, reconstructive options and insurance coverage.

Thursday: Conducting business in both chambers was a slow process. The House approved a bill that allows the new Airbus plant in Mobile to be held liable for manufacturing defects only if they arise during the first 12 years a plane is in service. The Senate-passed bill returns to the Senate for concurrence on changes made in the House. The Senate passed two sunset bills that continue the existence of state boards and agencies and a bill to make a supplemental appropriation from the Education Trust Fund: $10.8 million for workplace development in the Industrial Development Training Institute program and $5.3 million to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs for the Student Financial Aid Program.

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