May 3, 2021 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

Major positive news came last week when the state learned the results of the 2020 Census, namely that Alabama will not lose any Congressional seats, a possibility some feared before the official numbers were all in.

More good news came on the economic and workforce development front, as Alabama was designated a Defense Manufacturing Community by the Department of Defense.

In the legislature, the Education Budget was approved and is now headed to the Governor. The General Fund Budget is likely not far behind.

And speaking of Governor Ivey, she’s been named in a lawsuit concerning the state’s latest prison-construction project.

Find details on all this and more below. And with just a few days left in the session (it’s scheduled to end on May 17 with a week off after this week), things will be busy, so stay tuned to Group Watch!

The House and Senate return on May 4 at 2 pm. Watch live video of both chambers here.

  • Tuesday, April 27 (26th legislative day): The House passed several bills of local application only and general Senate-passed bills to fund public education in the State of Alabama as well as supplemental appropriations to certain agencies and non-state educational institutions. It also gave final approval to other Senate-passed bills to: further provide for the authority of local land banks related to delinquent property taxes; provide for the recovery of public funds by county and municipal authorities for the repair or replacement of private sewer laterals; and to authorize counties and municipalities to use reserves in excess of $1 million for lawful purposes. The Senate passed bills to authorize and regulate water bottle use in public K-12 schools and the Alabama G.I. and Dependents’ Educational Benefit Act for use of scholarships at in-state 2- and 4-year institutions.
  • Wednesday, April 28 (a committee day): The House Ways and Means Education Committee approved Senate-passed bills to create the Education Retirees’ Trust Fund Funding Act to provide for future periodic bonus checks for education retirees and to require the State Department of Education to develop a program to address the mental health of students. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved House-passed bills to: require every judicial circuit to establish a community punishment and corrections program; provide that the Permanent Legislative Committee on Reapportionment intervene in any legal action that contests the validity of the committee; and further provide for the crime of possession of a gambling device. The Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee approved House-passed bills to established the Alabama State Reservoir Management Development Program and provide for matching grants to entities receiving Small Business Innovation Research or Small Business Technology grants.
  • Thursday, April 29 (27th legislative day): The House passed several Senate-passed bills of local application only and general Senate-passed bills to: allow the awarding authority of a competitive bid to negotiate lowest bidder when all bids exceed available funding; further provide for municipal entities to issue summons and complaints in lieu of custodial arrest; and further provide for the authority and duty of pharmacy benefits managers. The Senate passed a number of House-passed bills of local application only and general House-passed bills to further provide for the Math and Science Teacher Education Program aimed at attracting more persons into math, science and computer science as teachers; and for the General Fund budget to provide a cost-of-living salary increase for agencies of state government, and other non-governmental entities receiving specific appropriations.

May 3, 2021 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

April 30
Grateful for our state leadership and the fiscally conservative policies that help our small businesses grow.

May 3, 2021 Group Watch: Lots Still to Do as Session Nears its Close

There are only three legislative days left in the Alabama Legislature’s 2021 regular session. Two will take place this week; then the body takes a week off before returning for the final day on May 17. And there is a lot of work yet to be done, with several major bills, including those on gambling and medical marijuana still outstanding. House Speaker Mac McCutcheon called the coming weeks “crunch time.” Read more here.

May 3, 2021 Group Watch: Anti-Gay Language to Be Removed from AL Sex-Ed Law

Alabama’s sex education law passed in 1992 contained instructions for sexual education programs in Alabama schools to instruct, with emphasis, that homosexuality is both unacceptable and illegal (in Alabama). Last week, Governor Ivey signed a bill into law that will remove this language. Read more here.

May 3, 2021 Group Watch: Alabama Among Six Locations Nationwide Chosen as Defense Manufacturing Community

Alabama has been chosen as one of six locations in the United States designated a Defense Manufacturing Community as a result of collaboration among the Department of Defense (DoD), Redstone Arsenal and the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH). UAH has been awarded a $3.7 million DoD grant under the Defense Manufacturing Community Support Program. The university is serving as the lead to focus on the visibility, workforce training and adoption of advanced manufacturing technologies in the region with an emphasis on the modernization of U.S. Army aviation and missile systems. This award follows a competitive selection process culminating in the under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment’s designation of the six Defense Manufacturing Communities (DMC).

May 3, 2021 Group Watch: Lawsuit Filed to Stop State’s Mega-Prison Plans

A lawsuit was filed in Montgomery County Circuit Court seeking to stop the progress on the state’s mega-prison construction plan that carries a $3 billion dollar price tag. Governor Kay Ivey and Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn are named as defendants in the case. Ivey signed two contracts with CoreCivic in February to build mega-prisons in Elmore and Escambia counties. With these 30-year contracts, the prisons will be operated by the Alabama Department of Corrections and maintained by CoreCivic throughout the duration of the lease. The plaintiffs in the case, state auditor Jim Zeigler, Representative John Rogers, Elmore County property owner Leslie Ognburn and pastor Kenny Glasgow believe the lease agreements violate state law and ADOC regulations. The lawsuit asks the judge to issue a declaratory judgement on the issue, specifically whether the governor can incur debt for the state. The plaintiffs ultimately ask the judge to void the lease agreements with CoreCivic. The plaintiffs also seek temporary and permanent injunctive relief to suspend the lease agreements.

May 3, 2021 Group Watch: AL House Passes $7.7 Billion Education Budget

Public education in Alabama will receive its largest ever amount of state dollars in the annual budget passed by the House of Representatives last week. The budget for the 2022 fiscal year, which starts October 1, appropriates $7.7 billion from the Education Trust Fund. The budget funds a 2-percent raise for teachers and education employees in public schools and community colleges. The budget also includes $100 million in funding for a new program to boost pay for math and science teachers in an attempt to remedy the current shortage of qualified teachers in those subjects in grades 6-12. K-12 received an increase of more than $207 million; the Alabama Community College System received an extra $47 million; and Pre-K received an additional $24 million. The Senate concurred with the House changes, and the measure now goes to the governor, who is likely to sign the bill since it substantially mirrors the budget she submitted at the start of the session.

May 3, 2021 Group Watch: General Fund Budget Approved by the Senate

The Alabama Senate approved a House-passed General Fund Budget with minor changes. The $2.4 billion budget represents a 3.6-percent increase year-over-year. Most agencies saw small increases or level funding. The largest increase was a more than doubling of the budget for the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles, who will see its budget go from $27.8 million to $58.7 million. Most of that funding aims to restore funding cut last year, after legislators learned the bureau had $21 million in rollover money available. The Alabama Medicaid agency will see its state allocation drop from $820 million to $769 million. Increased federal funding and carryover money meant the agency would require a smaller amount of state funding this year. The Department of Corrections will get a $26.4 million increase over the current year’s budget. The Department of Mental Health will get an increase of $11.2 million. The budget bill’s  2-percent pay raise for state employees would go into effect October 1.

May 3, 2021 Group Watch: AL Will Not Lose Congressional Seat

Alabama was projected as a state likely to lose a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, but results from the 2020 Census show Alabama’s population count was high enough to prevent that from happening. Alabama’s population count of 5,030,053 was more than 108,000 higher than a previous U.S. Census Bureau estimate in January. Census results were to be released months ago but were delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and a decision by the Trump administration to shorten the timelines for gathering Census responses.

May 3, 2021 Group Watch: Gov Ivey Signs Expungement and Law Enforcement Officer Database Bills

Governor Kay Ivey signed bills that broaden the offenses eligible for expungement and create a database to track the movement of police officers. The expungement bill will allow individuals convicted of misdemeanors or violations to apply for expungement of their convictions. Applications could take place three years after conviction and after all fines have been paid and court orders fulfilled. Another bill creates a statewide database to track law enforcement officers’ hiring, as well as disciplinary actions, reassignments for cause, and use of force complaints faced by an officer. Disciplinary actions and use of force complaints would have to be sent to the database within 30 days. Resignations related to complaints or investigations would have to be reported in 15 days. The law requires the database to be operational by October 1, 2023.

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