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February 21, 2014 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

Lots of general bills passed both houses this week, and the push to repeal Common Core is back.

  • Tuesday (15th legislative day): The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill keeping secret the manufacturers and suppliers who furnish the drugs for Alabama’s executions by lethal injection. The House passed several bills of local application only and gave final approval to several sunset bills. They gave approval to sunset legislation to continue the Department of Insurance, the Public Service Commission, the Board of Podiatry, the State Board of Registration for Foresters, the State Board of Prosthetists and Orthostists, and the State Oil and Gas Board. They also approved general bills to create a gap insurance program so schools destroyed by fire or natural disaster can rebuild to current school standards, to create a board to govern the Local Government Health Insurance Program, and to facilitate business rapid response to declared disasters in the state by out-of-state businesses. The Senate honored 2002 Olympic gold medalist Vonetta Flowers of Birmingham. They also passed several bills of local application only and a general bill to require biodegradable plastic containers to be labeled to prevent contamination of recyclable plastic containers. They debated at length but took no action on a House-passed bill to establish an independent administrative law judge to hear appeals of state tax assessments. This measure is also known as the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.
  • Wednesday (a committee day): The House Ways and Means General Fund Committee approved several bills including a $1.8 billion General Fund budget for the 2015 fiscal year. The committee budget closely follows the governor’s recommendations, which include funding Medicaid at $685 million, an increase of $70 million; $389 million for Corrections; $92.3 million for Courts; and minor increases for Public Health and Forensic Science.  The House Health Committee conducted public hearings on four bills relating to a ban on abortion and a bill related to the terms, compensation and authority of certain municipal water boards, but took no action on any of the contested matters. The House Committee on Boards, Agencies and Commissions voted favorably on a Senate-passed bill related to the State Board of Licensure for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors. The House Committee on County and Municipal Government approved a bill to further clarify the liability of local government employees acting within the scope of their job. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill to keep the manufacturers and suppliers of drugs for lethal injections private. The Senate Finance and Taxation-Education Committee conducted a public hearing on a bill to phase out the state sales tax on groceries, but did not vote.
  • Thursday (16th legislative day): The House approved several bills of local application only. They gave final approval to Senate-passed sunset bills to continue the Home Medical Equipment Service Providers Board, the Manufactured Housing Commission, the Sickle Cell Oversight and Regulatory Commission, the Athletic Commission, the Recruitment Institute and the Surface Mining Commission. They also passed general bills authorizing the display of the Ten Commandment on public properties; to further regulate the sale of pre-need funeral services; to establish boundaries governing territorial waters and submerged lands; and to establish training and certification of persons communicating during emergencies.  The Senate approved several bills of local application only and general bills to give preference for resident businesses under certain conditions; to provide a limited state income tax credit for qualified research expenses under certain conditions; to authorize the omission of residential addresses of victims of domestic violence on computerized statewide voter registration lists; and to prohibit sex offenders convicted of a crime with a minor from being within 500 feet of a public K-12 school during instructional hours.

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