April 5, 2021 Group Watch: Senate Approves Lifetime Concealed Carry Permits

On Thursday, the Senate voted 25-6 to approve a bill by Senator Randy Price (R, Opelika) that will allow people getting their permits for concealed carry of firearms the option of doing it only once. If they make that choice, they’ll have a lifetime concealed carry permit. The bill also includes the creation of a statewide database that will include everyone in Alabama who is prohibited from carrying firearms.

March 22, 2021 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The sixth week of session (last week) included the advancement of a new state lottery bill and the Senate’s passage of the Education Trust Fund budget, as well as the House passage of a bill banning “curbside” voting for future elections in the state.
  • Tuesday, March 16 (15th legislative day)The House passed a number of bills of local application only and general bills to: apply certain sentencing provisions to certain defendants who are mandatorily released and placed under the supervision of Pardons and Paroles; provide an exemption of issuance fees under certain conditions for disabled veterans when purchasing motor vehicle license plates; provide final approval to grant tax exempt status to the School of Fine Arts Foundation, High School of Math and Science Foundation and the School of Cyber Technology and Engineering Foundation; and outline that the application of penalties for persons voting more than once includes elections held outside the state. The Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee approved a number of bills to: create the Education Retirees Trust Fund; approve a mental health services coordinator for each school system; provide additional compensation to attract math and science teachers; provide a supplemental appropriation for certain education entities; and provide a cost-of-living increase for public education employees. It also approved the education budget for the fiscal year beginning October 1, 2021. The Senate approved several bills of local application only, and general bills to: provide exemption from sales and use tax for airport authorities; further provide for the authority for local land banks; require the State Department of Education to develop a program to address the mental health of students who are considered at-risk for developing inadequate social-behavioral skills; and further define additional types of foster family homes.
  • Wednesday, March 17 (a committee day): The House Ways and Means Education Committee approved bills to: provide for an education assistance program for the children of service persons and to establish the Math and Science Teacher Education Program. The Constitution, Campaigns and Elections Committee approved a Senate-passed bill to further provide for municipal elections. The Senate Children, Youth and Human Services Committee approved a House-passed bill to further define additional types of foster family homes. The Senate Education Policy Committee approved a House-passed bill revising the focus of content, course materials and instructions for sex education in public K-12 schools. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill to establish the Alabama Court Cost Commission. The Senate Tourism Committee approved five bills relating to creating a state lottery and a Gaming Commission and to prohibit gaming facility operators from making campaign contributions under certain circumstances.
  • Thursday, March 18 (16th legislative day): The House passed several bills of local application only, and general bills to: prohibit K-12 athletic events allowing competition by one biological gender against another unless the event specifically includes both genders; require mental health awareness to be included in the annual training session for employees of each K-12 school; and authorize the Permanent Legislative Committee on Reapportionment to intervene in any legal action that contests the reapportionment plan. The Senate passed several bills of local application only, and general bills to: create the Education Retirees Trust Fund Funding Act; provide a 2-percent cost-of-living increase for public education employees; and the $7.6 billion Education Trust Fund budget.
The House and Senate reconvene on Tuesday, March 30 at 1 and 2 pm respectively.

March 22, 2021 Group Watch: House Approves Ban on Curbside Voting

The House passed a bill to make it illegal to let people vote from their vehicles without going inside the polling place. The House approved the bill 74-25, with Republicans supporting it and Democrats opposed. The Republican majority voted to cut off the debate to force a vote, marking the fourth time that day that they stopped debate to require a vote that Democrats were trying to delay.

March 22, 2021 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

March 19
Thanks @yhn @sean_yhn
for the great article!
Excited to be a part of pushing our state’s startup ecosystem to the next level.

We at The Bloom Group would like to say “Congrats!” to our friend, Joshua Jones.

March 22, 2021 Group Watch: AL Company Gets Green Light for PPE Production

HomTex, an Alabama-based textile manufacturer, announced it has received FDA Emergency Use Authorization for its Level 1 Surgical masks, green-lighting its entry into the U.S. governmental and medical personal protective equipment (PPE) markets. HomTex, headquartered in Cullman County, has been family-owned since its founding in 1987. It is a certified minority-owned business. The Alabama company is well-positioned to have the largest capacity in the nation when it comes to producing 100-percent made-in-America masks. HomeTex also has a facility in Mobile, as well as Tennessee, South Carolina and North Carolina locations.

March 22, 2021 Group Watch: Senate Passes $7.6 Billion Education Trust Fund Budget

The Alabama Senate unanimously approved the 2022 Education Trust Fund budget, sending the $7.6 billion budget to the House. The biggest highlight of the budget is the funding for the Teacher Excellence and Accountability for Mathematics and Science (TEAMS) Salary Schedule Program. This program will significantly increase the pay for middle and high school teachers who teach math and science, and provides a 2-percent increase for all education employees. The budget also increases teacher supply funding, giving each $1,000, compared to $600 last year. The budget provides additional funding for career tech; preschool special education; and the establishment of an HBCU consortium.

March 22, 2021 Group Watch: Lottery Bill Still Alive

Last Wednesday, the Alabama Senate Tourism Committee approved a bill by Senator Jim McClendon that allows voters to decide whether or not to start a state lottery, and Senator Del Marsh, sponsor of an earlier plan that included a lottery, casinos and sports betting, said that his proposal might return. Marsh, chair of the Tourism Committee, urged the committee to pass McClendon’s bill, which it did, as well as legislation tied to Marsh’s plan for a larger expansion of gambling, which fell two votes shy of approval earlier this month. Marsh said he wants to give senators time to reconsider and possibly amend McClendon’s bill to add casinos and sports betting. McClendon’s plan would set up an Alabama lottery and allow people to play multi-state games like Powerball and Mega Millions. People could also play the lottery on their phones. The net revenue would be split evenly between the Education and General Fund budgets.

March 22, 2021 Group Watch: State Gets $$ From Fed Stimulus

Alabama will receive $4.043 billion in direct aid as part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan recently signed into law. Among counties, Jefferson will receive the largest allocation ($127 million), followed by Mobile ($80.14 million), Madison ($72.32 million) and Montgomery ($43.93 million). Birmingham will get $148.82 million, by far the most among cities. Mobile will receive $60.21 million and Montgomery $42.14 million. The funds are part of the $350 billion provided to state and local governments to help boost budgets hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic. Specific spending parameters will be outlined by the U.S. Treasury going forward; funds cannot be spent to replace net tax revenue caused by a change in law or pensions.

March 22, 2021 Group Watch: AL Schools Resuming Standardized Testing

Standardized testing resumed in school districts across Alabama last week. The federal requirement to test all students, first demanded under the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001, remains in place. While Superintendent Eric Mackey says he plans to ask federal officials to waive the high federal bar set for the number of students who must be tested, the state must still assess at least some students this year in reading, math and science. Last year, all testing was canceled after schools were closed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. School officials say these tests are important in order to determine what students have and haven’t learned in the previous year. This is the first time in 21 years that the state will actually be able to use the state assessment for the purpose for which it was designed, according to Mackey. The results will be used to make adjustments in teaching and instruction. The test is fully online, with paper tests only offered to students who have a specific documented need. There is no take-from-home version, so all students, even those learning remotely will have to come to school for the test.

March 22, 2021 Group Watch: New Initiative Aims to Make AL Tech & Innovation Hub

A proposal currently in the Alabama Legislature would establish the Alabama Innovation Corp. as a catalyst to spark economic growth, technology-focused innovation and job creation throughout the state. The Alabama Innovation Corp. would act as a public-private partnership to provide rural businesses, and R&D at existing companies access to the advanced tech skills that power a 21st Century workplace. The partnership would primarily be charged with making Alabama a hub for technology and innovation, advancing activities and initiatives to drive growth in the state.

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