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January 31, 2014 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

Winter Storm 2014 slowed the pace of The Alabama Legislature this week, but it was back to business as usual by Thursday, and issues addressed included election laws and child safety.

  • Tuesday (7th legislative day): The weather prevented the House from achieving a quorum, but not the Senate. Twenty-two of the 35 senators were present, four more than needed for a quorum. The Senate passed approximately 20 noncontroversial bills, most with little or no debate. They gave final passage to a House-passed bill to change some deadlines related to elections, such as when parties certify candidates, and to conform with changes to federal law to make certain that citizens overseas in the military are able to vote. They also gave final passage to a bill to provide that foods prepared at home for bake sales are exempt from regulation by county health departments; a bill to require circuit and district courts to accept debit card and credit card payment for court costs, fines and fees; and a bill to exempt Alabama military from paying late fees for renewing car tags if they were deployed when their tag expired, and they renew within 30 days of returning to the state.
  • Wednesday (8th legislative day): Although all legislative business for Wednesday was postponed, it will count as the eighth day of the session because of  the rule requiring either chamber without a quorum to meet the following day, thus counting as a day for both chambers.
  • Thursday (9th legislative day): The Senate Commerce, Transportation, and Utilities Committee approved four bills, including a bill to transfer fines for violation of the child safety restraint law for vouchers for child passenger restraint systems for low-income families to the Department of Public Health and to change the amount allowed for administrative overhead. Voices for Alabama’s Children passed the original child passenger restraint law several years ago. Another bill clarifies that certain customer complaints related to retail telecommunication services do not fall under the purview of the Public Services Commission. The House passed bills to increase the amount a person is allowed to earn while receiving unemployment benefits without having their benefits reduced; to allow farmers to buy more than one vehicle tag at a reduced cost for vehicles that haul farm products, and to exempt private schools from sales and use taxes on tangible property and lunches provided to K-12 students that are not sold for profits. The Senate passed several non-controversial bills to include measures to make sexual contact with an animal, bestiality, a misdemeanor and to raise the fee to obtain a license for trapping furry animals. They delayed action on bills to prohibit smoking in work places and public places and to establish independent tribunals to hear tax disputes between taxpayers and the state. 

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