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March 16, 2015 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

This past week, bills to protect religious freedoms, allow charter schools and to make changes to incentives given to businesses were on the agenda.

  • Tuesday (3rd Day of Regular Session): The House passed three bills to change the way Alabama gives incentives to businesses that create new jobs, hire veterans and develop projects in rural areas. The bills are part of the Made in Alabama incentives package Governor Robert Bentley addressed in his State of the State Speech last week. They are also a part of the Republican House Caucus agenda for this session. After a lengthy debate and dialogue, the Senate passed a bill to allow charter schools in Alabama. The Charter School bill provides for the creation of up to 10 programs per year for the next five years under the authority of local school boards. Under the bill, theses schools will be publicly funded, but will operate without the rules and regulations that govern traditional public schools in hiring, curriculum, instruction, scheduling and other areas. The Senate also passed a bill to establish a new missing child alert system. The bill provides that if a child is reported missing to a local law enforcement agency, and if those responsible for the child confirm the child is missing, an alert would be triggered.
  • Wednesday (4th Day of Regular Session): The House passed bills to authorize the Alabama Student Religious Liberties Act, which protects the religious expression rights of students in public schools; to provide for execution by electrocution under certain circumstances; to permit the sale of draft beer in Autauga and Elmore counties, with certain exceptions, and in the cities of Sylacauga and Oak Grove in Talladega County under certain circumstances. The Senate passed a bill to provide for the use of funds derived by counties and municipal governing bodies from solid waste programs. The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee took no action on HB48, which seeks to create the Office of Ombudsman for Child Welfare. The Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee approved SB89, a bill to restructure the Birmingham Water Board, on a 7 to 4 vote with 1 abstention.
  • Thursday (5th Day of Regular Session): After considerable debate, the House passed a bill to authorize the freedom of Religion in Marriage Protection Act; to authorize the municipal election option relating to the sales tax and licensure for alcoholic beverages and to provide for a petition and referendum in municipalities of 500 or less to determine the sale of alcohol. The Senate approved bills to establish rules for motor vehicles overtaking and passing bicycles; to authorize persons under the age of 18 to participate in the donation of blood and plasma; to clarify that the Senior Services Department is administered by the commissioner and the Board of Directors serves an advisory board; and to authorize a single-point filing system for county and municipal lodgings tax. The Senate carried over consideration, pending further negotiations, a bill to restructure the Birmingham Water Board.

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