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April 5, 2013 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The legislature returned to work on Tuesday the 16th day of the session following a week off. There was renewed energy in both chambers as they worked long into the night amid continuing dilatory tactics by Democrats.

Tuesday: The House Ways and Means Committee held a public hearing on the proposed education budget that would provide teachers a 2 percent pay raise and also give them a state-funded alternative to the Alabama Education Association for liability insurance. The House approved a bill to keep nonprofit spay/neuter clinics open in the state and a measure to make it legal to brew small quantities of beer and wine at home. The Senate approved bills to impose new regulations on abortion clinics; a proposed constitutional amendment to prohibit unfunded mandates for local boards of education without a two-thirds vote in the legislature; to replace the Board of Cosmetology with the board of Cosmetology and Barbering; to change the name of J.F. Drake Technical College to J.F. Drake State Community and Technical College, and adjourned without taking a vote on a gun bill that would allow carrying a firearm in vehicles without a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

Wednesday (a committee day): The House Ways and Means General Fund committee carried over a bill that would divert potential tobacco settlement money from the Children First Trust Fund to the General Fund. The House Constitution, Campaign and Elections Committee approved a bill to change state law relating to primary elections and allowing a candidate to be declared the winner if they received at least 35 percent of the vote. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill saying the state will not recognize federal laws that it considers contrary to the constitutional right to bear arms. The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee approved a bill to provide that religious employers would not have to furnish insurance coverage for contraception to employees. The Senate Health Committee heard testimony on a bill to change the way health care services are delivered under the Alabama Medicaid Agency, including using a group of regional managed care networks.

Thursday: The House and Senate met into the evening, with each chamber passing several bills. The House gave final passage to a Senate bill that sets up a process to allow posthumous pardons of the Scottsboro Boys. They also passed bills to permit distinctive motorcycle tags for veterans to be purchased at the same cost as car tags; to create the crime of criminal trespassing on a school bus in the first degree; to provide a tax credit against the tax liability of taxpayers for the rehabilitation, preservation and development of historic structures; to require vehicles to yield the right- of-way, slow down and move over for garbage, trash, refuse or recycling collection vehicles; and a bill establishing a “Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.” After hours of debate, the Senate passed a bill to allow free, lifetime permits to carry pistols in vehicles and other changes to current state gun laws. The bill also provides appeal rights for those denied a permit, prohibits an employer from taking actions against an employee for storing a gun in their private vehicle at work and generally loosens restrictions on persons carrying guns in public. They also gave final approval to a bill to require state agencies to file Business Economic Impact Statements with the legislature on proposed rule changes and post the same on agency websites.

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