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January 24, 2014 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The Alabama Legislature returned to work on Tuesday, for the fourth day of the 2014 regular session. Bills passed addressed issues ranging from religious rights to liquor sales.

  • Tuesday (4th legislative day): The House passed bills that provide misdemeanor punishment for discriminatory misconduct by the Alabama Department of Revenue against Alabama taxpayers, and which will allow healthcare providers to refuse to provide services, specifically procedures relating to abortions, human cloning, human embryonic stem cell research or sterilization, if they conflict with provider’s moral, religious or ethical principles. The Senate passed bills that would allow citizens of Lincoln to vote on whether to authorize Sunday liquor sales when races are being held in Talladega Superspeedway, and a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the Mobile Area Water and Sewer System to absorb the assets of the Water Works and Sewer Board of the City of Pritchard.
  • Wednesday (committee day & 5th legislative day): The House Ways and Means Education Committee delayed a vote on a proposed $100 million bond issue to help schools replace textbooks with digital tablets. The House Health Committee approved a bill to regulate tanning beds and restrict the use by teens. The House Constitution, Campaigns and Elections Committee approved bills that would redact the addresses of domestic violence victims on voter registration lists that are available to the public, change the manner in which write-in votes are counted, and allow public officials from other states access to voter registration lists. The House and Senate Judiciary Committees approved prosecutor-backed legislation to shorten the appeal time in death penalty cases. The bill is supported by the Alabama District Attorneys Association and Attorney General Luther Strange. The Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Accountability Committee approved bills to provide drug testing for welfare applicants who have a misdemeanor or felony drug conviction in the past five years, requiring applicants to have applied for a minimum of three jobs, prohibit liquor stores, bars, tattoo parlors, psychic networks and strip clubs from taking the electronic cards that carry welfare benefits, and strengthen the penalties for lying to get welfare benefits. The House approved bills to give adoptive families a $1,000 tax credit and to clarify that teachers and state employees have statutory immunity when carrying out their duties. The Senate approved a bill to consolidate legislative operations under a newly configured Legislative Council.
  • Thursday (6th legislative day): The Senate Constitution, Campaign Finance, Ethics and Elections Committee approved bills to require lobbyists to report all allowed spending on public officials, eliminating the $250 threshold that triggers the current reporting requirement, to govern appointment of Alabama delegates in the event states call for a convention to amend the U. S. Constitution, and to set limits on what Alabama delegates could do in the event of such a convention. The House approved bills to create a Fair Ballot Commission to write summary statements to explain ballot initiatives for voters and to end the Alabama Health Insurance Program for high-risk people who have trouble getting health insurance because the new federal health law provides coverage. The Senate approved bills to allow criminal records to be expunged in certain cases when there was no conviction, to allow counties to issue vehicle registrations good for two years, to enable small businesses to raise capital from small investors through “crowd funding” of up to $1 million, and make it not a violation of the open container law to carry in a locked glove compartment wine bottles that have been opened and resealed.

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