May 15, 2023 Group Watch: Mobile Area Enjoying Economic Growth

Two companies are launching growth projects in the Mobile area, bringing a combined $98 million in new capital investment and almost 240 jobs, according to the Mobile Chamber of Commerce. Georgia-based Chart Industries plans to invest $73.7 million in a second production site in Mobile County to increase manufacturing capacity of its cryogenic containers. The project will create 59 jobs. Superior Air Parts, which produces FFA-approved replacement parts for piston-engines, will invest $24.2 million to relocate its manufacturing operation and corporate headquarters in Creola in Mobile County. This project will create 180 jobs over five years.

May 15, 2023 Group Watch: Unique Partnership Enables Broadband in Macon County

Many businesses and homes in Macon County now have the capability of connecting to a next-generation fiber broadband network, thanks to a partnership that pools state grants, private investment and philanthropic funding. According to the Macon County Economic Development Authority, the project represents an opportunity to drive long-term economic growth and improve the well-being of the county’s residents. The network has secured a number of early wins for the area, including helping attract Samkee Corp’s $128-million auto parts manufacturing facility and enabling a collaboration between Tuskegee University and telehealth company OnMed, which is providing remote care on campus for students, faculty and the wider Macon County community. To drive this project, the economic development board teamed with Rural LISC, a non-profit community development institution; Connect Humanity, a non-profit that works with communities to build internet infrastructure; and Point Broadband, a rural internet service provider based in Opelika, Alabama. The organizations banded together to raise $3.1 million, including state and federal grants, to fund a fiber broadband network that significantly improves internet service in the county, where previously more than 40 percent of households have not had access to a wired or fixed wireless connections at broadband (25Mbps) speeds.

May 8, 2023 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

Last week saw more bi-partisan agreement in the Alabama House of Representatives, with two bills passing that chamber unanimously. One targets the sale of products containing Delta-8; the other piece of legislation protects overtime pay from state income taxation.

The Senate got down to business too, passing the $8.8 billion education budget, which includes a modest pay raise for education employees and a tax rebate for Alabamians. 

Read more on all this and other trending #alpolitics topics below.

The House and Senate will reconvene on
Tuesday, May 9 at 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. respectively.

May 8, 2023 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

@AL_League
May 5
Members of the League attended @GovernorKayIvey’s Proclamation Hour Ceremony yesterday. We’re so thankful she declared May 7-13, as Municipal Government Week in AL! Please join us in recognizing the tremendous work of our local government workers & elected officials. #alpolitics

May 8, 2023 Group Watch: Day-by-Day, Play-by-Play

On Tuesday (16th day of regular session): 

  • The House passed bills to prohibit electronic vote-counting systems from having the capability to connect to the internet or to cell phone networks; to prohibit the sale of psychoactive cannabinoids to minors and to levy a 5% tax on gross proceeds; and to exempt overtime income from “adjusted gross income” for income tax purposes. 
  • The Senate approved bills to provide requirements for the use of iron produced within the United States for certain public works projects under certain conditions; to further provide for the salary of all circuit clerks in the Unified Judicial System based on the pay plan adopted by the personnel system of the Unified Judicial System; to establish in the Department of Public Health a Certificate of Nonviable Birth; to require students in public high schools to complete a personal financial literacy and money management course before graduation and to provide for the creation and administration of a financial literacy examination and to require the reporting of a summary of examination results to the State Department of Education.

On Wednesday (17th day of regular session and a committee day):

  • The House Health Committee approved bills to authorize the board to issue permits for certain medical school graduates to practice medicine in a limited capacity for a limited time as a bridge year graduate physician and to further provide for the practice of an optometrist and the authority of the Alabama Board of Optometry. 
  • The House Ways and Means Committee approved a bill to allow parents to use funds in an education scholarship account to provide an individualized education program for their children. 
  • The House Education Policy Committee approved bills to change certain provisions of the Alabama School Choice and Student Opportunity Act and to further provide additional requirements for the alternative preparation programs and teacher certification.
  • The House Urban and Rural Development Committee approved a bill to prohibit Chinese citizens, the Chinese government or Chinese entities from acquiring real property in Alabama. 
  • The Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee approved bills to provide a one-time rebate for the promotion of the general welfare; to provide a 2% pay increase for public education employees; relating to the Education Trust Fund Rolling Reserve Act, to further provide for additional definitions relating to annual Education Trust Fund appropriations; and to make an appropriation for the support, maintenance and development of public education in Alabama. 
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill to allow persons 70 years of age or older to be excused from jury service and to request a permanent exemption from jury service. 
  • The Senate Healthcare Committee approved bills to provide further for qualifications for licensure as a physician and to authorize the Board of Medical Examiners to issue permits for certain medical school graduates to practice medicine in a limited capacity for a limited time as bridge year graduate physicians; and to revise appointment of the state health officer to require certain medical rules, orders or directives issued by the state health officer to be approved by the governor and a copy filed with the secretary of state before the emergency rule, order or other directive has the full force and effect of law. 
  • The Senate approved bills to further provide exemptions to the state procurement code and to further provide for the authority to make emergency procurements and outlined the review of those procurements by the Contract Review Legislative Oversight Committee; and to require state agencies to take certain measures to prevent fraud before paying benefits to recipients.

On Thursday (18th day of of regular session):

  • The House passed bills to prohibit any person from distributing, ordering, requesting, collecting, completing, obtaining or delivering an absentee ballot application of another person in certain circumstances; and to require each law enforcement officer to undergo annual training related to individuals with certain sensory needs or invisible disabilities. 
  • The Senate passed bills relating to the Education Trust Fund budget including appropriations to Tuskegee University, Southern Preparatory Academy, Talladega College and the Distressed Institutions of Higher Education Revolving Loan Program; a 2% pay increase for public education employees; a one-time income tax rebate for the promotion of general welfare; supplemental appropriations to various education entities; and the overall education budget.

May 8, 2023 Group Watch: Senate Passes Education Trust Fund Budget

The Alabama Senate approved an $8.8 billion education trust fund budget. The budget provides for a 2% pay raise for education employees, a $2.8 billion surplus and gives the go-ahead for a one-time $100 direct rebate to taxpayers. Highlights of the 2024 education budget and supplemental budget:

  • $5.9 billion to K-12
  • $2.4 billion to 2- and 4-year higher education
  • $195 million to early childhood education
  • 2%  pay raise for education employees
  • $76 million for the Department of Mental Health
  • $35.6 million increase to the Alabama Community College System
  • $20 million for teachers’ classroom instructional materials
  • $10 million for “underperforming schools”
  • Alabama Math Science and Technology initiative increased by $25 million
  • $500,000 to special education classroom cameras
  • $100 direct tax rebate to 2021 tax filers

May 8, 2023 Group Watch: House Passes Bill Restricting Delta-8 Products

Last week, on a 105-0 vote, the Alabama House passed a bill to make it a crime to sell products containing delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a chemical derived from hemp, to people younger than 21. Delta-8 products are currently available in stores and online and include gummies, vapes, candy, cookies and other varieties. Under the bill, selling these products to someone under 21 would be a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail. Persons under 21 who possess the products would be subject to a citation and a fine. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued warnings about products containing delta-8, saying they pose a serious health risk as they have psychoactive and intoxicating qualities, have not been evaluated for safety, and some are sold with deceptive marketing practices, purporting to have therapeutic benefits.

May 8, 2023 Group Watch: Senate Takes Steps Toward a New State House

With the decades-old State House in need of multiple repairs, the construction of a new facility for the Alabama Legislature has been being explored since last fall. Last week, the Senate unanimously approved a bill to give the legislature control over the property directly behind the State House, which is currently a parking lot and where a new State House would go. Benefits of a new building include the ability to design a space that is more inline with and would better accommodate the functions of the legislature. Read more here.

May 8, 2023 Group Watch: Bill to Ban Chinese Drones Introduced

State Rep. James Lomax of Huntsville introduced a bill to ban state agencies and governmental bodies from buying Chinese-made drones and unmanned aircraft if the producer of the technology is registered on the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Under Lomax’s bill, any county, city or state agency that wants to purchase drone-related technology must ensure that the manufacturer is not listed by the OFAC as being “owned or controlled by, or acting for or on behalf of” certain authoritarian regimes and countries of concern. China is the world’s largest manufacturer of drones, with the United States being second. This bill will promote American products while protecting national security. Florida passed similar legislation in 2021.

May 8, 2023 Group Watch: AL Lawmakers Putting the Brakes on Street Racing

The Alabama Senate gave final approval to a bill intended to crack down on street racing and other dangerous exhibition driving, legislation that comes in response to incidents resulting in injuries and deaths. The bill sets up criminal penalties for drivers who take part in speed contests or perform burnouts, donuts and other reckless driving maneuvers. It prohibits those activities on public roads, in parking lots or on private property without the permission of the property owner. Mayors of Alabama’s 10 largest cities said legislation to help stop dangerous driving exhibitions was one of their top priorities for state lawmakers. Senator Rodger Smitherman sponsored the bill in the Senate, which passed by a vote of 32-0. The bill now goes to Gov. Kay Ivey, who is expected to sign the measure. The law would go into effect three months following her signature.

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