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May 10, 2013 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The Alabama Legislature returned to work on Tuesday for the 28th day of the session.

Tuesday: The Senate Education Committee approved a House-passed bill to clarify that schools would not be forced to take transfers from failing schools under the Alabama Accountability Act. The Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee approved a House bill to authorize a $30 million bond issue to help Murphy High School and other schools damaged by tornadoes. The Senate Judiciary Committee also approved a House bill to remove a requirement that the state must prove to a jury the guilt of a defendant who pleads guilty in a capital case. The requirement would remain in death penalty cases. They also approved a House-passed bill proposing a constitutional amendment to require that any state gun control law be subject to “strict scrutiny” when reviewed by courts. The Senate Business and Insurance Committee approved a bill to permit Child Advocacy Centers to participate in the State Employee Insurance plan with all costs to be responsibility of the local entity. No state funds are involved. The House passed bills to overhaul the state’s Medicaid system and to allow certified registered nurse practitioners and certified nurse midwives to prescribe some controlled substances. The Senate approved a House passed Education Trust Fund budget with some modifications. The Senate version includes a 2 percent pay increase for K-12 education employees and $9.4 million for expansion of the state’s voluntary pre-K program. They also approved a House-passed bill to make it legal to brew beer at home in limited quantities.

Wednesday (a committee day): The House Commerce and Small Business Committee held a public hearing on a bill to allow VictoryLand to operate machines that are programmed the same as those operated at Indian casinos. The committee took no vote on the measure, effectively killing the bill for this session.  The same committee approved a bill to create the Alabama Space authority, which would work to establish a spaceport in Alabama. The Senate Constitution and Elections Committee approved a bill to move the deadline to register to vote from 10 days before an election to 17 days prior to the election.

Thursday: Governor Robert Bentley signed into law a bill allowing private citizens to brew beer and wine at home in limited quantities. The House approved an overhaul of campaign finance law that included ending the state’s limit on corporate contributions to candidates, and the Senate approved a conference committee report on gun legislation. The House and Senate jointly gave final approval to the nearly $5.8 billion education budget; to the $1.75 billion General Fund budget; to remove the head of the Alabama Education Association from the board that controls teachers’ retirement; and to revisions to the Alabama Accountability Act, which gives income tax credits to help families transfer out of “failing” schools.

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