April 10, 2023 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The Alabama Legislature returned to Montgomery and got back down to business last Tuesday for the 5th day of the 2023 regular session after a week off for Spring Break. Lots of bills moved through both House and Senate committees, and changes to the Alabama Medical Liability Act made it through both chambers. 

Governor Ivey introduced her “Game Plan,” a four-bill package designed to keep the state’s positive economic development momentum going, and she’s got the mayors of Alabama’s top-10 largest cities behind the proposed legislation. The mayors noted how the package addresses specific needs to keep their cities and our state competitive with neighboring states.

Read more on these topics and other #alpolitics happenings below.

The House and Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, April 11 
at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. respectively.

April 10, 2023 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

April 9
From my family to yours, wishing you a very Happy Easter! He is risen, indeed!
Luke 24:6-7

April 10, 2023 Group Watch: Day-by-Day, Play-by-Play

On Tuesday (5th day of regular session): 

  • The Senate County and Municipal Government Committee approved bills to allow local governments participating in the Retirement Systems of Alabama additional time to elect to provide the retiree bonus as set forth in Act 2022-229, and to extend boundary lines of a municipality in south Alabama. 
  • The Senate Health Committee approved two bills: to expand the scope of the practice of podiatry to include treatment of disorders of the foot and ankle and to further provide for the scope of practice for certain licensed social workers.  
  • The House passed bills to temporarily revise the eligibility and compensation of public retirees; to further provide for the compensation of circuit clerks in the state Judicial System; and to allow education employees to use sick leave when caring for an ill child when a petition for adoption has been filed. They also approved several bills of local application only. 
  • The Senate approved bills relating to the use of electronic vote counting systems and bills relating to the compensation of board of registrar, and to prohibit the sale, distribution, marketing or possession of psychoactive cannabinoids found in hemp for certain age groups. They also approved several bills of local application only.

On Wednesday (6th day of regular session):

  • The House Boards and Commissions Committee approved 16 sunset bills to continue individual boards and/or commissions, including the boards that regulate architecture and professional engineers. 
  • The House Education Policy Committee approved bills to require a child to successfully complete kindergarten before being admitted to the first grade and to require high school students to complete a personal financial literacy and money management course before graduation. 
  • The House Health Committee approved a bill relating to changes to the Alabama Medical Liability Act of 1996. 
  • The House Judiciary Committee approved bills to provide that a prisoner is not eligible for parole if they have committed a new offense and to provide for additional circuit judgeships for specific areas. 
  • The House Ways and Means Education Committee approved a bill to phase-in a reduction in the top tax rate from five percent to four and ninety-five hundredths’ percent and to eliminate the two percent tax rate on the first $500 for individuals. 
  • The Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee approved bills to increase the mileage reimbursement paid to jurors and to reopen the State Police Tier II Plan in the Employees Retirement Systems of Alabama. 
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill to change certain provisions of the Alabama Medical Liability Act of 1996; a bill to require prosecution of a child 16 or older as an adult who uses a dangerous weapon against an employee or agent of the Department of Youth Services; and a bill to further provide for the definition of contraband in juvenile facilities. 
  • The Senate approved a bill to further provide for the salary of all circuit clerks; to expand the practice scope of podiatry; to adopt the Interstate Teacher Mobility Compact to allow licensed teachers to practice among compact states in a limited manner; and to further provide for the scope of practice for certain licensed social workers. 

On Thursday (7th day of of regular session):

  • The House passed 16 sunset bills continuing boards and commissions including the State Board for Registration of Architects and the State Board of Licensure for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors. It also passed bills to provide that healthcare facilities have policies and practices of visitation for patients; to phase-in a reduction in the top tax rate from five percent to four percent; and to eliminate the two percent tax rate on the first $500 of income for individuals. 
  • The Senate passed bills to require mandatory minimum sentences for certain felony drug trafficking offenses; to reopen the State Police Tier II plan of the Employees Retirement System; and to provide that the term “healthcare provider,” as used in the Alabama Medical Liability Act of 1996, would include emergency medical services personnel and any emergency medical provider service.

April 10, 2023 Group Watch: Governor Ivey Launches “Game Plan” Bill Package

Governor Ivey launched her plan for Alabama’s continued economic success, The Game Plan, a proposed package of four economic development bills that will strengthen the state’s competitiveness for job-creating projects. The Game Plan includes: 

  • A bill to renew the Alabama Jobs Act and the Growing Alabama program and extends their sunset dates to 2028.
  • The Site Evaluation and Economic Development Strategy Act (SEEDS), which will allow the State Industrial Development Authority to accelerate the development of industry-ready sites at a time when available sites are scarce and other states are expanding their site programs.
  • The Innovation and Small Business Act aims to supercharge growth in Alabama’s innovation economy and support underrepresented businesses and enterprises in rural areas, transforming the state into a hub for technology and innovation.
  • The Enhancing Transparency Act will require the Alabama Department of Commerce to publish certain incentivized project information on its web site. 

The mayors of the state’s 10 largest cities (Auburn, Birmingham, Decatur, Dothan, Hoover, Huntsville, Madison, Mobile, Montgomery and Tuscaloosa) support the governor’s plan. The Big 10 Mayors also urged the legislature to reauthorize and expand our incentive packages so that communities can continue to successfully compete with neighboring states.

April 10, 2023 Group Watch: Bill Would Ban Smoking, Vaping In Vehicles With Children

The Alabama House approved legislation that would make it illegal to smoke or vape in a car where a child under the age of 14 is present. The bill will make it a secondary offense under Alabama law, carrying a penalty of up to $100 fine per violation. Legislation to ban smoking in a car with children was first presented by Rep. Rolanda Hollis in 2018 but did not include a prohibition on vaping. This version of the measure specifically outlines the law as a secondary offense, meaning it can not be the main reason for a traffic stop. 

April 10, 2023 Group Watch: Gov. Ivey Says She’ll Quickly Sign Fentanyl Bill

Following Thursday’s final passage of House Bill 1, which increases the penalties for fentanyl trafficking, Governor Ivey announced she looks forward to swiftly signing it into law. In a statement put out by her office, Ivey noted she believes that Alabama is setting the example for the nation by passing the bill with total bipartisan support. “The entire nation should take note of what we accomplished today in Alabama with the passage of House Bill 1, the bill to help combat the fentanyl crisis. Every member of the Legislature – Republican and Democrat – came together to pass this critical piece of legislation,” she said. “Combatting this deadly drug will continue to be a top priority for our Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, and I will continue to do everything in my power to stop this drug from being a killer in Alabama.”

April 10, 2023 Group Watch: Aderholt Has New Chief of Staff

U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt’s office announced a change in his Chief of Staff position. Michael Lowry, who has worked with Aderholt as communications director, will be taking over the position from the retiring Kerry Knott. Knott, who joined Aderholt’s staff in 2019, said he is looking forward to retirement. Lowery said he is looking forward to starting his new role.

April 10, 2023 Group Watch: Tax Cuts Coming?

Thanks to a budget surplus, multiple bills that would cut taxes for Alabama residents have been filed by legislators this session. Gradually eliminating the sales tax on basic groceries is one that has garnered a lot of attention. It and other proposals, like lowering income tax rates, are currently being discussed and debated. The sticking point for all proposals will be if they are truly sustainable. Read more here.

April 10, 2023 Group Watch: Hospital Patient Info May Have Been Disclosed in Cyber Security “Incident”

A healthcare company that runs six hospitals in Alabama announced that patient and other information may have been disclosed during a cyber security incident. The company, whose hospitals in the state include Grandview Medical Center in Birmingham and Crestwood Medical Center in Huntsville, said a cybersecurity firm it contracts with to provide secure file transfer software became aware of the incident in late January. The healthcare company’s investigation so far has determined that personal information on patients, a limited number of employees and other individuals may have been disclosed to the unauthorized party.

April 10, 2023 Group Watch: Senate Passes Street-Racing Bill 

The Alabama Senate has passed a bill to crack down on street racing and dangerous driving stunts, legislation that comes in response to several incidents that caused death or injuries. The bill by Senator Rodger Smitherman would result in possible jail time for drivers who race or do risky driving maneuvers on public streets or in parking lots. Last year, Smitherman and other lawmakers met with Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin about the problems caused by street racing. The City of Birmingham set up speed bumps in downtown Birmingham to slow down street racers and stunt drivers. Smitherman’s bill provides for penalties that would help police keep the dangerous driving practices in check. A similar bill is pending in the House.

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