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May 4, 2015 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

This past week, the Alabama Legislature passed bills to continue a number of state boards and commissions, to assist local government in functioning efficiently. Also, plans for possible expansion and regulation of gaming in the state were discussed.

  • Tuesday (17th Day of Regular Session): The House gave final approval to Senate-passed bills for electric utility facilities regulated by the Public Service Commission to connect with other electric suppliers; to provide immunity for damages arising from products not designed, manufactured, sold or leased by a manufacturer; and to clarify the exemption for degree-granting (colleges and universities) entities operating under reciprocity agreements. They also passed local bills for Tuscaloosa County relating to member contributions for the retirement system for police officers and firefighters, and to change the local election date. The Senate gave final approval to House-passed bills to continue the Athlete Agents Commission; the Massage Therapy Board; the Board of Examiners on Admission to the State Bar; the Occupational Therapy Board; the Polygraph Examiners Board; the Onsite Wastewater Board; the Engineers and Land Surveyors Board of Licensure; and Board of Examiners for Chiropractors.
  • Wednesday (Committee Day): The House Health Committee held a public hearing on three abortion-related bills. One of the bills bans abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected, and another allows medical professionals to opt out of procedures based on their conscience. A third bill, which is said to be designed to shut down a Huntsville abortion clinic located across the street from a school, is said to be about protecting school-age children.The committee heard from parties on both sides of the matter but took no vote. The committee will likely vote this week.  The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would require couples wanting to be married to enter into a properly executed contract witnessed by two adults. The contract would then be filed in the probate office, and would govern same-sex marriages no matter the outcome of a Supreme Court ruling. The House Commerce and Small Business Committee considered a bill to establish a statewide framework to allow the transport company Uber to operate in the state, but took no action on the measure. The committee also conducted a public hearing on a Senate-passed bill relating to the Birmingham Water Board. Although they did not vote on Wednesday, they approved the measure on a voice vote on Thursday morning.
  • Thursday (18th Day of Regular Session): The Senate passed bills to establish a line item in the General Fund Budget for dredging navigable waters; to prohibit certain public officials from serving as lobbyists for a two-year period; to exempt the Birmingham Zoo, Inc. from state, county and local sales and use taxes; and to provide that at least one member of the Jefferson County Retirement Board be a retired member.

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