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May 9, 2016 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The 2016 regular session of the Alabama Legislature ended last week with two major bills that had shown promise “dying” in Wednesday’s final hours, leaving the door open for a possible special session later this year to address the issues the bills would have remedied, namely prison problems and Medicaid funding (see articles below). On the positive front, both state budgets were passed and signed into law, and plenty of other good and important work got done.

On Tuesday, May 3 (29th day of the session):

  • The House gave final approval to bills to authorize municipalities in Jefferson County to retroactively retain issuance fees for license plates; to further provide for camera enforcement of traffic speed and red light violations in Bessemer; and to prohibit municipal governing bodies from contracting with private auditing firms regarding the regulation of sales and use tax.
  • The Senate gave final approval to bills to reduce the cost for copies from the Secretary of State for certain entities; to delete the requirement that county superintendents of education maintain an office at the county seat; and to authorize the continued participation in the Local Government Insurance Program for Children’s Advocacy Centers.
  • The Senate also gave final approval to bills to extend the assessment and Medicaid funding through 2019, using 2014 as a base year and clarifying the uses of certified public expenditures by publicly and state-owned hospitals; to permit physicians to indicate electronically if generic drugs are allowed as a substitute; to authorize fire and rescue personnel to administer opioid antagonists and provide for their immunity; and to authorize the mayor of a municipality where a water board is located and provides service to other counties to appoint additional board members.

On Wednesday, May 4 (30th and final day of the session):

  • The House gave final approval to bills to prohibit municipalities and governing bodies from contracting with private audit firms regarding the regulation of sales and use taxes and to require counties and municipalities to levy business license tax for home health and hospice only where the headquarters or branch office is located.
  • The House also gave final approval to bills to require individual and corporate income tax returns at the state level correspond with the filing date for federal returns, and to require municipalities to have an affirmative vote of the municipal council before extending police jurisdiction.
  • The Senate gave final approval to bills to create the Office of Minority Affairs as a cabinet level position; to require courts to provide interpreters for non-English speaking and deaf individuals in the juvenile court intake process; to require economic development tax abatement correspond between the county and municipal entities; and to require instruction in cursive handwriting by end of the third grade in public schools.
  • Learn more about what the Senate got done (and didn’t get done) on this, the final day of the session, on the“Senate Minute” video, here.)

In other news…

Leni’s Law was signed into law by Governor Bentley last week (and becomes effective on June 1) and allows and expands access to a marijuana derivative called cannabidiol that has shown success in helping those who suffer from certain debilitating diseases, including seizure disorders. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, decriminalizes possession of CBD for those with conditions such as those that produce seizures and strokes. For some, the effects are so dramatic that the outcome is considered to be lifesaving. The law is named for Leni Young, a young woman whose family moved to Oregon so she could have access to cannabidiol to treat her seizure disorder. Her parents stayed active in Alabama, pushing and garnering support for the law.

The bill from the House that proposed splitting up BP settlement money and therefore freeing up additional funds for Medicaid died in the Senate on the 29th day of the session after Senators became embroiled in debate over the allocation of road money, and the committee adjourned without voting the bill out of committee. Medicaid officials say the budget shortfall will result in changes to the state program that will include cuts to physician reimbursement as well as cuts to the adult pharmacy and outpatient dialysis for patients.

Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey was recently named one of the “50 Most Influential Female Republicans” by Newsmax, which stated that every woman on the list would “play a key role in shaping America’s future.” Ivey tweeted that she was humbled by the recognition. Read more here.

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