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May 11, 2015 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

This past week, the Alabama Legislature passed bills to protect children from labor law abuse and proposed measures to address the state’s revenue woes and the state’s prisons problems.

  • Tuesday (19th Day of Regular Session): The House passed bills to revise the formula for calculating the weekly benefit for individuals receiving unemployment; to revise Limited Liability Law relating to wrongful distributions; to authorize the Law Enforcement Agency to appoint a designee as Homeland Security Advisor; and to designate the age of majority as 18 years old for participation in college/university research. After hours of debate and maneuvering, the House voted to cloture debate and passed a Senate-passed bill relating to the Birmingham Water Board. The Senate gave final approval to a House-passed bill to increase certain insurance fees and licenses and to provide for an appropriation to the Insurance Department’s Strengthen Alabama Homes Fund for fiscal year 2016. They also passed bills to create the Alabama Space Authority; to strengthen current law on child labor law enforcement; and to further expand the authority of the Department of Corrections Investigation and Intelligence Division.
  • Wednesday (Committee Day): The House Financial Service Committee approved a bill that provides new limits on payday loans. The proposed bill gives borrowers more time to repay the loan and much lower interest rates. The Ways and Means General Fund Committee wasted little time approving bills to raise cigarette taxes from 42.5 cents a pack to 67.5 cents a pack; raising car title fees from $15 to $25; raising auto rental/leasing taxes from 1.5 percent to 2 percent; changing the assessment on lubricating oils from a 6-cent excise tax to a 4-percent sales tax; treating two state holidays as mandatory furlough days for nonessential state workers; and suspending longevity pay for state workers for one year. The House Health Committee approved three bills that would prohibit providers from performing abortions if a fetal heartbeat is detected; would allow healthcare providers to decline to participate in any procedure that violates their conscience; and to ban abortion clinics or reproductive health centers within 2,000 feet of a public school.
  • Thursday (20th Day of Regular Session):  The House passed a Senate-passed bill to reform the state’s correctional system in hopes of avoiding federal intervention. They also passed bills to provide that compensation may be determined solely by a local governing body if a district is within a 21st Century Manufacturing Zone, which must be ratified by voters in a statewide referendum; to require public schools to allow home school students to play sports at the public school to which they are zoned; and to transfer certain programs of the Department of Economic and Community Affairs and the Department of Postsecondary Education to the Department of Commerce. The Senate passed bills to provide certain restrictions on vision care services provided by optometrists and ophthalmologists who have contracts with insurers and to provide for a compliance certificate being substituted for a certificate of good standing relating to business privilege taxes. The House Ways and Means General Fund Committee reconsidered and tabled bills to require mandatory furlough days for state workers and to suspend longevity pay for state workers. The House State Government Committee amended a Senate-passed bill relating to architects and engineers.

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