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January 17, 2014 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The Alabama Legislature returned to work on Tuesday, the 14th for the first day of the 2014 regular session. After the governor’s “state of the state” address on Tuesday evening (see below), they got down to business on Wednesday.

Wednesday (2nd legislative day): The Senate Education Committee with no opposition approved a bill to remove a requirement that students must graduate from an accredited high school to be admitted to a public two-year college. The Senate Constitution, Campaign Finance, Ethics and Elections Committee approved a bill aimed at discouraging lawmakers from quitting in the middle of their terms to take jobs as lobbyists. This bill would expand current law to prohibit members from lobbying either house for two years instead of just the chamber in which they served. The Senate Finance and Taxation Committee approved a bill with one dissenting vote to allow the state to sell bonds to help local school systems convert to digital textbooks. The bill’s sponsor Gerald Dial says the plan includes a provision to help poor systems by providing a 25-percent match to receive a grant from the bond money. The match can be waived for poor systems. A similar bill is pending in the House.
Thursday (3rd legislative day): The House passed business-friendly tax bills that were part of the “Commonsense Conservative” agenda of the Republican caucus. One of the measures gives the Department of Revenue the ability to suspend taxes that cost more to collect than they bring in; another creates a commission to hear taxpayers’ appeals instead of an administrative law judge who works under the Department of Revenue and to allow more small businesses to pay their sales taxes after collecting the money from the sale, instead of having to pay in advance. The Senate passed an identical bill today, along with a proposed constitutional amendment to xxxx unfunded mandates for local school systems and to amend the Open Meetings Act to allow members of public boards to participate in meetings remotely through telephone or video conference under certain circumstances. The Senate delayed action on a bill to tighten the law on former legislators lobbying in the State House.  They also approved a resolution to establish a prison reform task force. The intent of the measure is to get the Council of State Governments to study the state system and recommend changes.

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