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May 26, 2015 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

This past week, the Alabama Legislature passed bills to provide for the continued operations of educational and non-educational functions of government and to assist local governments in functioning with autonomy and efficiency.

  • Tuesday (23rd Day of Regular Session): The House Ways and Means Education Committee approved a substitute education budget that had passed the Senate. The committee substitute provided $10 million in additional funding for pre-k, which when coupled with the $17 million in recently received federal funding, provides for a $27 million expansion in the next 12 months. The House passed bills to provide for regulation by the Public Service Commission of gas and hazardous liquids; to appropriate tobacco revenue to the Children First Trust Fund; to provide for the appropriations for the ordinary expenses of the executive, legislative and judicial departments of government, also known as the General Fund Budget. The controversial proposal contains deep cuts in the absolute appropriations to agencies, but provides conditional amounts that would restore most agencies to level or near-level funding if new revenue measures are found. The House also passed bills to authorize business license taxes for home-health agencies to be due to the municipal or county government where the headquarters or branch office is located; to limit the operation of golf carts on streets and require liability insurance where such use is authorized; and to extend the supplemental privilege assessment and monthly surcharge to nursing facilities. They also gave final approval to a Senate-passed bill requiring that at least one member of the Jefferson County Retirement System Board be a retiree. The Senate passed bills to authorize drivers in accidents with no apparent physical injury to move motor vehicles from the roadway; to create the Property Insurance and Energy Reduction Act of Alabama; to create the State Campaign Finance Commission; to permit a retail licensee and state liquor store to conduct distilled liquor and wine tastings; and to integrate into the Medicaid care network the provision of long-term care to elderly and disabled persons on a managed-care basis.
  • Wednesday (Committee Day): The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee approved a bill to permit Briarwood Presbyterian Church to hire certified police officers to patrol its campuses, which include an elementary, high school and seminary. The Senate Education Committee gave a favorable report to a bill known as the Tim Tebow Act, which would allow students who are home schooled to participate in sports at the public school in their district. The Chair of the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee announced the House-passed “bare boned” General Fund budget will be in his committee next week and said he is hopeful that options other than the House-passed budget will be on the table. He went on to say that he will not rule out new revenue proposals. Informed sources say there are renewed discussions about a tobacco tax and a soft drink tax.
  • Thursday (24th Day of Regular Session): The House passed bills to create a Legislative Committee on Government Oversight and Accountability; to exempt regional care organizations from state, county and municipal taxes; and to fund the essential education functions of government to include Talladega College, Tuskegee University and Lyman Ward Military Academy. The Senate passed bills to authorize disabled and elderly voters to go to the front of the line at polling places; to provide for appeals of the Administrative Procedures Act directly to the Lt. Governor; and to reconstitute the Legislative Council and make the Alabama Law Institute part of the Legislature.

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