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March 22, 2013 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The Alabama Legislature returned to work on Tuesday for the 14th day of the session. This week began as last week ended, in turmoil. And there will be zero activity next week as everyone, including the legislature, takes a Spring Break.

Tuesday: The Senate adjourned for the day without conducting business after Democrats and a Senate official accused the Lt. Governor of improperly calling the Senate to order without enough senators present to conduct business. The Lt. Governor ruled that she visually counted 18 members in the chamber, but Democrats say the official roll call shoed only 17 members were present, short of a quorum, and one of those showing present was a vacate Senate seat. The House convened later in the day and despite dilatory tactics, was able to pass two measures before adjourning. They passed a bill to alter the fee structure disposal of certain hazardous waste materials and a bill to further define “special fuel” and the level of taxes paid on those products.

Wednesday: On a day that is usually a  committee day, the Senate canceled all committee meetings and reconvened for the 15th day of the session. The mood remained tense and after contentious debate the Senate approved Secretary of State Beth Chapman as a member of the University of Montevallo board of trustees. The Senate also passed a bill to strengthen anti-nepotism statues by including cousins and other relatives and a bill to create the possibility of parole for some juveniles convicted of capital murder. A subcommittee of the House Education Policy Committee gave a negative recommendation to a bill to repeal the Common Core curriculum standards. The House Constitution, Campaigns and Elections Committee approved a proposed constitutional amendment to allow the display of the Ten Commandments and other historic documents in public buildings. The House County and Municipal Government Committee discussed but did not vote on a bill related to property tax exemptions for the elderly and disabled. The House approved a bill to make it a crime to use a dangerous instrument to threaten utility workers when they come onto a person’s property to shut off a utility, read a meter or perform other official duties. They also approved a bill to allow the Alabama Highway Finance Corporation to issue up to $25 million in bonds to help some counties come up with the matching funds to get federal money for road and bridge projects.

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