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May 18, 2015 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

This past week, the Alabama Legislature passed bills to assist local communities in addressing their needs, to further address improvements in education, and to assist local communities during the electoral process.

  • Tuesday (21st Day of Regular Session): The Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee held a public hearing on a bill to allow a statewide vote on a lottery and gambling at the state’s dog tracks but took no vote on the measure. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh of Anniston said he would consider suggestions from other legislators on possible changes before seeking a committee vote. The House passed bills to amend the Administrative Procedure Act to allow for appeals to the Lt. Governor; to further provide distribution of sales and use taxes in Jefferson County; and to provide for an increase in sales and use taxes in Tuscaloosa County and further provide for the distribution of the proceeds. They carried over a bill to cap the interest rates on payday loans. The Senate passed appropriation bills from the Education Trust Fund to Lyman Ward Military Academy, Tuskegee University and Talladega College and supplemental appropriations to several state entities for the current fiscal year.
  • Wednesday (Committee Day): Tthe House Boards, Agencies and Commissions Committee voted favorably on a bill to allow veterinarians to work for non-profit spay and neuter clinics, but as in previous years, many say it probably won’t achieve final passage in both chambers. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would allow judges and clergy to refuse to perform a marriage ceremony for any reason. The bill also known as Freedom of Religion in Marriage Protection Act has already passed the House and now awaits consideration by the full Senate.
  • Thursday (22nd Day of Regular Session): The House passed bills to provide electronic books in lieu of printed lists to qualified voters at polling places; to provide warrant recall fees in municipal court cases in Shelby and Jefferson Counties be deposited into the Corrections Fund; to provide that unemployment compensation benefits are reduced if the individual receives or is eligible to receive pension payments from a plan maintained or contributed to solely by the employer; and to revise the membership and terms to the boards of trustee at Jacksonville State University and the University of North AlabamaThe Senate passed bills to further define what constitutes a failing school and to increase the homestead and personal exemptions. The House Ways and Means General Fund Committee reported out a General Fund budget with massive cuts, but did provide consideration for conditional appropriations that would undo the devastating cuts if new revenue is available. The measure will likely face strong opposition when it reaches the floor for debate next week. The governor says that he will veto the plan if it reaches his desk as reported out of committee. The House Ways and Means Education Committee heard testimony on the education budget but delayed a vote until next week. The reaction to the committee proposal was generally positive and well received. The Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee approved a bill to allow a statewide vote on a lottery and gambling at the state’s four greyhound tracks.

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