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April 26, 2013 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The Alabama Legislature returned to work on Tuesday for the 23rd day of the session, and as it nears its end, there’s still some important work to be done.

Tuesday: The House Commerce and Small Business Committee held a public hearing, but did not vote on, a Senate-passed gun bill. The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee approved a bill to lower the fees charged by payday lenders to limit the number of loans a consumer could receive and to set up a database to keep track of loans. Both chambers worked until midnight with the House approving a bill to overhaul the State’s Medicaid program, changing it from a fee-for-service model to a network of regional managed care organizations. After hours of debate, they also passed bills to transfer one-time tobacco receipts to the ailing General Fund budget and passed a lean General Fund budget for FY2014. The Senate approved bills to allow the state to partner with a private developer to build a hotel and conference center at Gulf State Park and to prohibit state welfare recipients from using their benefits on booze, casinos and tobacco. They defeated a bill to exempt current legislators from an upcoming ban on legislators holding two government jobs, and debated, but did not pass, the “Tim Tebow Act” that would allow home-schooled children to play public school sports and participate in extracurricular activities.
Wednesday (a committee day): The House Health Committee approved a Senate-passed bill to allow certified registered nurse practitioners and midwives to prescribe some controlled substances. The Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee approved an education budget that reduced the size of a proposed teacher pay raise from 2 percent to 1 percent while providing a 1 percent non-recurring bonus for teachers. The Senate Education Policy Committee voted 6-3 to approve a bill to allow existing private school students to benefit from tax credits designed to help families move out of “failing” schools. The House gave final passage to a Senate bill to streamline the process of terminating parental rights for children who have spent extensive time in foster care. The Senate passed a bill that requires drug testing for welfare recipients with a history of drug use and a series of sunset bills that authorize continuation of state boards, commissions and agencies.
Thursday: The House Commerce and Small Business Committee approved a substitute version of a Senate-passed bill that would change state law on carrying firearms. The House Economic Development and Tourism Committee approved a bill to allow the state to partner with a private developer on a conference center at Gulf State Park. The House passed bills to authorize a $50 million bond issue for school security equipment such as door-locking systems, metal detectors and surveillance cameras; to require barbers to be licensed and regulated; and to eliminate the requirement for the state to prove to a jury the guilt of a defendant who pleads guilty to a capital offense. The requirement will remain for cases in which the death sentence imposed. The Senate passed bills to revamp the Alabama Medicaid Agency so that it would provide services through a network of managed care organizations and to lower fees paid by burying hazardous waste at the Emelle landfill, which proponents say will create jobs.

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