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July 2016 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

Students may still be enjoying their summer break, but the Alabama State Board of Education is working to find the right new state superintendent, the state Medicaid agency is making cuts and more.

State Board Narrows Search for New Superintendent
The Alabama State Board of Education recently narrowed its search for a new state superintendent to six candidates. The board also elected new leadership, elevating Yvette Richardson to the position of vice president and Mary Scott Hunter to president pro tem. Board members agreed to interview the candidates on August 4 and make a selection at the boards regularly scheduled meeting on August 11. The six candidates that will be interviewed for the job are: Craig Pouncey, current Jefferson County School superintendent; Janet Womack, current superintendent for Florence Schools; William Evers, a research fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University; Dee Fowler, current superintendent of Madison City Schools; Jeana Ross, secretary for the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education; and Michael Sentence, a longtime Massachusetts educator and administrator.

Alabama Medicaid Agency Announces 1st Major Cut
The Alabama Medicaid Agency announced its first major cut due to budget cuts. The agency announced it would end enhanced reimbursement payments for primary care doctors. The enhanced reimbursement put some Medicaid primary care reimbursement rates on par with Medicare rates. It was designed to get more doctors to serve Medicaid patients. Alabama lawmakers approved a budget that was $85 million short of what was needed to fund Medicaid. The cut in reimbursement will save an estimated $14.7 million. Additional cuts are expected.

Judge Temporarily Halts New Restrictions on Abortion Clinics
A federal judge temporarily stopped the state from enforcing new restrictions on abortion clinics in Alabama that were scheduled to go into effect August 1. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson’s restraining order keeps the state from implementing a law that bans abortion clinics within 2,000 feet of a K-8 public school and a ban on what abortion advocates call the safest second trimester abortion procedure. The lawsuit was filed by the Alabama Women’s Center in Huntsville and the West Alabama Women’s Center in Tuscaloosa claim the 2000 feet restriction would force both of them to close, leaving only three clinics that provide abortions in the state. Judge Thompson set a hearing on the request of both clinics for October 4.

Alabama Will Not House Immigrant Children
In the June issue of Group Watch, we wrote that federal agencies were in the process of deciding if the state would be forced to take in immigrant children who were in the country without their parents. The feds have scrapped those plans, according to Representative Bradley Byrne of Mobile and Representative Martha Roby of Montgomery. The federal government initially wanted to house children at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery, as well as military fields in Baldwin County. Representative Byrne and Representative Roby said they were told that there are no plans to use military installations in the state as part of the Department of Health and Human Services’ plan. The children, detained at the U.S. and Mexico border, must await processing by the Office of Refugee Resettlement since they are in the country without their parents.

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