March 1, 2021 Group Watch: AL Getting More COVID Vaccines

During a COVID-19 update, State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said the state is seeing an average delivery of about 90-100,000 does a week. There are 1.5 million residents eligible, which requires 3 million doses. According to Dr. Harris, more than 800,000 people have received their first shot, and 77 percent of doses received so far have been administered. Since the pandemic was first discovered in the state in March 2020, Alabama has reported 490,220 cases, 9,744 deaths and 45,250 hospitalizations.

March 1, 2021 Group Watch: School Sports Legislation

A bill addressing a topic making news all over the country passed out of committee last Wednesday. Rep Scott Stadhagen’s (R-Hartselle) bill requires that public school students only compete in athletic competitions aligning with the gender that appears on their birth certificate. Read the full text of HB391 here.

March 1, 2021 Group Watch: No-Go on Distracted Driving Bill

Last week, several House members put the breaks on HB 90, a bill that would prohibit the use of hand-held cell phones and other electronic devices while driving. They said they worry the bill is too broad. According to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. K. L. Brown (R-Jacksonville), it is designed to save lives. She noted that similar bills passed in other states have decreased accidents attributed to distracted driving. While the bill prohibits holding a cellphone while driving, it also includes language that prohibits the use of voice commands on phones while driving. When concerns were raised on this portion, Rep. Mike Jones (R-Andalusia) said he would work with Brown to remove it. Another concern raised was how to enforce the law. Faced with these questions, Brown requested the bill be carried over, which means the bill can be brought back up during this session. Read the full text of HB90 here. 

March 1, 2021 Group Watch: Food With Furry Friends

Rep. Steve McMillan (R-Gulf Shores) recently introduced a bill that overrules several city and county statutes that prohibit dogs (other than service animals) from eating with their owners at restaurants. The bill lets restaurant owners decide their own rules and policies concerning the presence of dogs. There are some restrictions: The law would only apply to  restaurants that have outdoor space that is accessible without walking the dog through its indoor dining area. Read the full text of HB235 here. 

March 1, 2021 Group Watch: “Aniah’s Law” Through House

With unanimous votes, two bills to create “Aniah’s Law” passed the House last week and now move to the Senate. Both bills allow judges increased discretion when deciding to grant or deny bail for people charged with violent crimes. “Aniah’s Law” is named for 19-year-old Aniah Blanchard, who was kidnapped and murdered in Auburn in October 2019 by a suspect free on bond from another kidnapping case at the time he abducted and killed Blanchard. Read the full text of one of the bills here.

March 1, 2021 Group Watch: License Plate Bill Out of Senate

A bill that allows the use of automated license plate recognition systems on public highways by law enforcement agencies passed the Senate last week and now goes to the House. SB2 is sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) and lets law enforcement use technology to record car license plates in an effort to track criminals. It has raised some privacy concerns, but the bill states that, “law enforcement agencies may not sell license plate recognition data for any purpose and may not make the data available to any agency, corporation, or association that is not a law enforcement agency nor to any individual who is not a law enforcement officer.” Read the full text of SB2 here.

February 15, 2021 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The second week of the 2021 regular session started last Tuesday, and two issues were in the spotlight: gambling and prisons. Senator Del Marsh filed a bill that would allow Alabamians to vote on expanding gaming and establishing a lottery in the state. (You can read a summary of the gaming proposal here.) Meanwhile, several lawmakers questioned Governor Ivey’s Alabama Prison Program that calls for building three new prisons in the state. Both issues are likely to consume a lot of time as the session moves forward.
  • Tuesday, February 9 (4th legislative day): The House passed several bills, including bills to update the disbursement of certain license taxes and registration fees; to provide for enhanced criminal penalties under certain conditions for violations under the Alabama State of Emergency Consumer Protection Act; and to authorize the Secretary of State to waive the Certificate of Existence fee for business entities under certain conditions. The Senate passed bills that include ones to authorize agents of the city or county to expend funds from reserve accounts for solid waste in excess of $1 million for lawful purposes; to permit municipal and county entities to transfer or use public funds for repair or replacement of private sewer laterals with provision for cost recovery; to provide for enhanced criminal penalties under certain conditions for violations under the Alabama State of Emergency Consumer Protection Act; and to require redaction of contract information from court documents released to the public regarding elder citizens.
  • Wednesday, February 10 (5th legislative day and a committee day): The House Urban and Rural Development Committee approved a bill to authorize the installation and deployment of small wireless facilities and associated poles, towers and base stations on the public rights-of-ways. The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill to require redaction of contract information from court documents released to the public regarding elder citizens. The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee approved bills to impose a $1 fee on firefighter license plates; to update the statutes relating to distracted driving and use of a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle; and to combine motor vehicle dealers and motorcycle dealer and used vehicle license plates. The House Education Policy Committee approved bills to require a child successfully complete kindergarten before being admitted to the first grade and to authorize the State Department of Education to manage the construction and renovation of property that is part of a state educational institution. The Senate Tourism Committee approved bills relating to gaming, specifically to establish the Alabama Education Lottery Corporation and the Alabama Gaming Commission and creating the authority to negotiate a compact with Poarch Creek Indians. It also approved a bill to create the Digital Expansion Authority and related entities to further advance access and connectivity to broadband. The House passed several bills of local application only, and the Senate gave final passage to House-passed bills to exempt from state taxation COVID-19 relief funds and to extend the job credit and investment credit for approved projects and incentives for the attraction of new and expanding business, including in rural areas.
  • Thursday, February 11 (6th legislative day): The House approved bills to allocate federal funds from the Finance Department to the Alabama Rental Assistance Fund; to align the state with the model law by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners relating to credit for reinsurance; and to further provide for members of the Tier II plan under the Teachers Retirement System. It also approved Senate-passed bills to provide immunity from claims relating to contraction or exposure to coronavirus and to authorize the installation and deployment of small wireless facilities and associated poles, towers and base stations on the public rights-of-way. The Senate passed bills to change the annual license tax and registration fee for low-speed electric vehicles (golf carts); to allow the awarding authority to negotiate the lowest bidder when all bids exceed available funding; and to authorize financial institutions to refuse to execute or delay execution of certain financial transactions involving the account of an elder or vulnerable adult when financial exploitation may have occurred.
The House and Senate will be on a break this week, as will Group Watch. Both chambers reconvene on Tuesday, February 23 at 1 PM and 2 PM, respectively, and Group Watch will return as well.

February 15, 2021 Group Watch: Rental Assistance Passed

The Alabama Senate voted unanimously on final passage of a bill to provide as much as $263 million in rental assistance funds to the people of Alabama. The bill provides federal funding from COVID-19 relief legislation passed by Congress in December 2020. The Alabama Housing Finance Authority will administer the state’s emergency rental assistance program. The Authority has preliminary information on its webpage, here.

February 15, 2021 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

@RepBarryMoore
Feb 12

Happy birthday to the Great Emancipator and 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln!

February 15, 2021 Group Watch: Senator Shelby Won’t Seek Re-Election

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, a mainstay of Alabama politics for decades, has officially announced his plans to retire following the end of his current term in 2022. Shelby has served in congress for 42 years and said in his remarks that he would not seek a seventh term in the United States Senate. Shelby chaired the Appropriations, Rules, Banking and Intelligence committees in the Senate. He is known for his focus on the economy, education, space exploration and the Port of Mobile.

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