March 14, 2022 Group Watch: Governor Signs Bill to End Concealed Carry Permit Requirement

Alabama lawmakers gave final approval to a bill to repeal the requirement for a permit to carry a concealed handgun, an idea proposed for about the last 10 years. Gov. Ivey immediately signed the legislation into law, which takes effect in January 2023. The House and Senate voted mostly along party lines to approve the conference committee report. The bill has been one of the most controversial of the year, with opposition from the Alabama Sheriffs Association and others in law enforcement. They say the permit requirement is an important public safety tool. Supporters of the bill call it “constitutional carry” and say the requirement for a permit and a background check infringes on the Second Amendment.

March 14, 2022 Group Watch: Governor Awards $10M in Pandemic Relief Grants For Volunteer Fire Departments

Governor Kay Ivey has awarded $10 million in COVID-19 pandemic relief funding to establish grants for volunteer fire departments. The grant program was established from the State Fiscal Recovery Fund with dollars received under the state’s portion of the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. For providers that meet eligibility requirements, the state will offer grants up to the amount of $10,320. The application period for the Alabama Volunteer Fire Department COVID Recovery Grant program will be open from noon, March 7 through noon, March 25, 2022.

March 14, 2022 Group Watch: Alabama Innovation Corporation Board Holds First Meeting

The Alabama Innovation Corporation board of directors recently held its first meeting. Established through legislation signed by Governor Kay Ivey, the Alabama Innovation Corporation is charged with implementing policies designed to make Alabama a hub for technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. The board was officially seated in December and is chaired by state finance director Bill Poole, and will partner with the private sector, governmental entities and lawmakers to craft programs and policies to support the state’s innovation sector. In 2021, the legislature appropriated $10 million to the Innovation Corporation, with $5 million of the funds being used for the Innovate Alabama Matching Grant Program. The program will grant funds of up to $250,000 to awardees of the federal Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs. Poole commended Governor Ivey and the legislature for their support of corporation’s mission to bolster Alabama’s innovation economy.

March 14, 2022 Group Watch: Alabama Rep. David Wheeler Dies

Rep. David Wheeler, R-Vestavia Hills, has died at age 72. Rep. Wheeler won election in Jefferson County in 2018 and was unopposed for re-nomination in the Republican primary in this historically Republican district. A long-time official in the Jefferson County Republican Party, he was an accountant by training who worked for decades for Alabama Power and served as president of a pest control company. Our heartfelt condolences are extended to his family.

March 14, 2022 Group Watch: House Majority Leader Praises World Games’ Ban on Russian Athletes

House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter applauded a recent decision by Birmingham organizers and officials of The World Games. The World Games 2022 Organizing Committee announced that it had banned Russian and Belarusian athletes from participating in the upcoming July competitions due to the nations’ unprovoked aggression toward Ukraine. According to World Game organizers, more than 60 Russian athletes have been banned as a result of the decision. Ledbetter called the ban a “commonsense and just reaction” given Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unwarranted invasion of the Eastern European nation. The World Games 2022 will take place in Birmingham, July 7-17.

March 7, 2022 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

Last week, it sure felt like spring had arrived, and while the season may “officially” be a few weeks off, Alabama’s Republican legislators had some spring in their steps after Senate Majority Leader Clay Scofield outlined his party’s major accomplishments so far. The legislature’s 2022 regular session has hit the halfway mark, and, according to Scofield, a lot of good work has already been done; see details of his comments below. 

Still to come but moving quickly ahead is a bill to repeal the state’s concealed carry permit. It’s met some resistance but isn’t slowing down.

More businesses are expanding all over the state, continuing the trend from last year. Bonnie Plants is among them, growing bigger in Bullock County.

And as the world is bombarded with images of the conflict and destruction in Ukraine,Governor Ivey called on all Alabamians to keep the country in their thoughts. She proclaimed last Wednesday an official day of prayer for the nation. Read all about it and more below.

The House and Senate return on Tuesday, March 8 at 2 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., respectively.

March 7, 2022 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

@JeffAMartin1
Feb 25
With no intention to follow in my father’s journalism footsteps, today I was elected President of the APA’s – Journalism Foundation. The same honor bestowed on Dad 14 years ago. I imagine he was looking down today with a little bit of pride. I know I was looking up.

March 7, 2022 Group Watch: Legislature Day-by-Day, Play-by-Play

Tuesday, 16th day of regular session: 
  • The House Local Legislation Committee approved two bills of local application only, affecting the City of Jackson in Clarke County and the Choctaw County Commission.
  • The House passed several bills, including bills to require local boards of education to provide feminine hygiene products in women’s restrooms of certain schools at no cost to students and to authorize local tax collecting officials to conduct on-line public auctions for collection of delinquent property taxes.
  • The Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee approved bills to establish the Alabama Numeracy Act and to prohibit the use of the Common Core State Standards in public K-12 schools and to amend the Alabama Literacy Act to further provide for the membership and duties of the Literacy Task Force, the duties and functioning of the Alabama Committee on Grade Level Reading, and good cause exemptions from retention.
  • The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee approved bills to phase out any municipal occupational license tax based on an annual reduction in the tax until the tax would be repealed and to require certain emergency rules, orders or directives issued by the state health officer be approved by the governor and filed with the secretary of state before taking effect.
  • The Senate passed bills to establish a venue before a three-judge panel to hear legal challenges against statewide redistricting plans and to exempt from rental, sales and use taxes the gross proceeds from the sale or lease of detection dogs.
Wednesday, 17th day of regular session:
  • The House Education Policy Committee approved several bills, including a Senate-passed bill to delay for two years the implementation of the third-grade retention requirement under the Alabama Literacy Act.
  • The House Judiciary Committee approved several bills, including bills to prohibit the performance of a medical procedure or prescription of medication to a minor child that is intended to alter the minor child’s gender or delay puberty and a proposed constitutional amendment to require the governor to provide notice to interested parties prior to granting a reprieve or commutation.
  • The House Ways and Means General Fund Committee approved a bill designed to eliminate the business privilege tax by December 31, 2023.
  • The House Ways and Means Education Committee approved several budget-related bills including the education budget, a one-time bonus for retired educators and a 4-percent raise for active education personnel.
  • The House approved several bills of local application only and a number of non-controversial bills, including a measure to allow the delivery of garnishment orders by regular or certified mail.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee approved several bills, including a House-passed bill to restrict the requirement for permits for the open carry of pistols (with two amendments) and to create the Criminal Justice Policy Development Council as well as its membership and duties.
  • The Senate passed four bills from a 10-bill special order calendar: They passed bills to establish the Alabama Numeracy Act aimed at improving the math proficiency of students from kindergarten to fifth grade; to extend the privilege self-assessment for hospitals and nursing homes through FY25; and to impose an assessment for emergency medical transport providers.
Thursday, 18th day of regular session:
  • The House passed several bills of local application only and general bills to: increase the minimum service threshold for broadband connectivity; prohibit the issue of scrip in bearer form; and to permit textbook publishers to provide standards correlation evidence to the state Department of Education and the State Superintendent of Education for use in the evaluation process.
  • The Senate passed a House-passed bill to repeal the requirement for a permit for concealed carry of a firearm.

March 7, 2022 Group Watch: Governor Ivey Shows State’s Support for for Ukraine

Governor Kay Ivey proclaimed Wednesday, March 2 a day of prayer for Ukraine. The governor says that Alabama stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine as they fight to protect their country and democracy. Alabamians are deeply rooted in their faith, and as many Christians observed Ash Wednesday, she urged them to pray for peace in Ukraine. The governor’s proclamation condemns Russia’s acts of aggression and calls on the Russian Federation to withdraw its forces. Ivey also directed the ABC board to remove all Russian-made liquor from the shelves of state-owned liquor stores in a show of support for Ukraine that will also add to the economic pressure being put on the Russia. She encouraged other Alabama businesses and individuals to find ways to send Russia a message calling for a stop to what Ivey called an “unreasonable siege of a neighboring country.”

March 7, 2022 Group Watch: Senate Republican Leaders Tout Achievements Thus Far

Republican leaders in the Senate pointed to American Rescue Plan funding, broadband expansion and tax cuts, among other items, as part of their achievements at the halfway mark in the 2022 session. Clay Scofield of Guntersville made the remarks as he outlined the priorities for Senate Republicans for the remainder of the 2022 legislative session. Scofield, Senate Majority Leader, pointed to the tireless efforts of all the Senators and lauded the collaboration in the upper chamber relative to investing in rural health care, expanding high-speed broadband internet access, strengthening Alabama’s military and extended defense communities, improving mental health resources and providing commonsense tax cuts to small businesses and families. He cited that going forward, priorities would include protecting second amendment rights and improving education.

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