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3/9/2015 Group Watch: News & Views From the State House

Here we go! The 2015 regular session of the Alabama Legislature has begun, and it’s sure to be an interesting one.

  • State of the State: Governor Robert Bentley unveiled his plan for Alabama during the state of the state speech last Tuesday. The governor proposes adding 500 teaching units; level funding for most state agencies, with the possibility of eliminating some open positions; increasing the Medicaid budget by $110 million; increasing funding to the Departments of Corrections and Pardons and Parole by $28.1 million and $18.3 million respectively; increasing funding to the Pre-K program by $10 million; and increasing funding by $15 million to the Office of the Attorney General. Governor Bentley is also proposing to increase taxes by $541 million.  The proposed hikes would be in the form of automobile sales tax and cigarette tax; elimination of certain tax credits for banks and insurance companies; elimination of an income tax withholding plan; elimination of a tax exemption for municipal utilities; and the closing of a corporate tax loophole.
  • Bills to Watch: Several Republican lawmakers want to bring back the electric chair as a backup in capital cases in the event lethal injection is declared unconstitutional or the drugs not available. At the top of the Republican agenda is a bill to establish charter schools. A limit of 10 schools can be created in the first year. Two House Democrats are co-sponsoring a bill that would make it illegal to carry a gun in a church without permission, even if you have a permit. One of the first bills filed this session would prohibit Alabama school districts from discriminating against students and parents for their religious viewpoints. HB 41 would allow physically disabled or elderly voters over the age of 70 to move to the front of the line at their designated polling places.

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