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March 23, 2015 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

This past week, the Legislature passed bills to reform the state’s prison system, enhance educational options for school-age children and to strengthen economic opportunity in local communities.

  • Tuesday (6th Day of Regular Session): A legislator introduced a bill to scale back a key part of Governor Bentley’s plan to raise taxes. Representative Steve Clouse introduced a bill that would raise the vehicle sales tax from 2 percent to 3 percent instead of the 4 percent proposed by the governor. After lengthy debate, he House passed a bill to raise the maximum age a judge can serve from 70 to 72. The bill as introduced would have raised the age to 75. They also passed a bill to make it a misdemeanor offense to fraudulently claim to have been decorated or received a medal from serving in the United States Armed Forces. The House defeated a proposed constitutional amendment to ban new occupational taxes in the state after 2017.  The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill to help reform the state’s prison system. The bill is designed to keep some nonviolent offenders out of prison and keep others from returning to prison. The 130-page bill reduces penalties for some crimes and calls for greater supervision of inmates on parole and for those who finish their sentences and leave prison. The Senate approved a bill to require cars to keep a distance of at least five feet when passing bicycles.
  • Wednesday (7th Day of Regular Session): The Senate Education Policy Committee approved a bill to make it a crime harass or threaten school employees through the internet. They also approved a bill to broaden the Alabama Accountability Act, which gives state financial support to families of children in failing schools to allow them to enroll in private schools and to refocus its eligibility requirements on students with the most needs. The House passed local bills to allow the sales of draft beer in Elmore County and for the sale of alcohol in Elmore County under certain circumstances. They also approved a Senate-passed bill with changes to allow charter schools. The Senate approved the charter school bill with the changes made by the House and sent the measure to the governor for his signature, which occurred on Thursday. They also passed bills to authorize a change in the board composition of the Alabama Municipal Electric Authority and to prohibit serial meeting under the Alabama Meetings Act.
  • Thursday (8th Day of Regular Session): The House passed bills to provide incentives for reinvestment in existing businesses and to waive state licensing requirements for athletic physicians traveling into the state for sporting events. The Senate gave final approval to local bills affecting the sale of draft beer and Sunday alcohol sales in Elmore County. They also passed a bill to create a new board to govern two-year colleges.

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