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May 3, 2013 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

On Tuesday, House and Senate members returned to work for the 26th day of the 2013 regular session.

Tuesday: The House passed bills to change the deadline to register to vote from 10 days to 17 days before an election and to require that any restriction on the right to bear arms would be subject to “strict scrutiny” by the courts. The latter is a proposed constitutional amendment.The Senate passed bills to declare federal gun control laws to be null and void in Alabama if they were in violation of the Second Amendment; to ensure that the murder of a person under a protective order is a Class A felony; to allow local school systems to use education funds with the approval of the local board of education to hire armed school resource officers with certified state training; to make changes to state campaign laws including lowering the fundraising and spending threshold that triggers reporting requirements; to restore many of the property tax exemptions that were changed in 2012 for the disabled and people over 65; and to create an organization that would work to establish a spaceport in Alabama.

Wednesday (a committee day): The House Ways and Means-Education Committee approved a bill that would remove the head of the Alabama Education Association from the control board of the Teachers’ Retirement System. The House Economic Development and Tourism Committee approved a bill to allow Alabama wine makers to sell their products in tasting rooms at locations other than the winery. The House State Government Committee approved bills to mandate the drug testing of welfare recipients with drug convictions and another bill that would prohibit welfare benefits from being spent on alcohol, cigarettes, tattoos, strip clubs and psychics. The House County and Municipal Government Committee did not debate a bill aimed at adjusting the membership of the Birmingham water board due to a lack of a quorum.

Thursday: The House approved bills making multiple changes to state law regarding guns and to authorize the state to partner with private investors to develop and operate a hotel and conference center at Gulf State Park. The gun bill returns to the Senate where they must decide to accept or reject House changes to the bill. The House and Senate also non-concurred on the General Fund budget and sent the measure to a conference committee. The Senate passed a number of local bills and a general bill to authorize the State Employees Insurance Board to offer a high-deductible health plan. For the second consecutive week, the Senate delayed plans to debate the Education Trust Fund budget. There is said to be sharp disagreement on the size of a teacher pay raise.

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