February 28, 2022 Group Watch: Legislature Day-by-Day, Play-by-Play

Tuesday, 13th day of regular session: 
  • The House considered and passed three of the most fiercely debated bills of the session thus far: bills to repeal the state’s requirement for a permit to carry a concealed handgun; to create a new definition of a riot and provide tougher penalties, including mandatory jail time; and to require Alabama public school students to use restrooms and locker rooms designated for the sex shown on their birth certificates.
  • The Senate made quick work of its calendar, passing bills to provide one-time longevity bonuses for retired teachers and retired state and local government employees; and to delay the implementation of the Literacy Act to the 2023-24 school year.
Wednesday, 14th day of regular session:
  • The House Military and Veterans Affairs Committee approved several bills to aid military service persons and their families, including bills to establish a program of advanced enrollment for children of military families and to revise requirements for occupational licensing boards to adopt rules that provide for reciprocal occupational licenses for military spouses under certain circumstances.
  • The House Ways and Means Education Committee approved several bills, including a measure to require local boards of education to provide feminine hygiene products in women’s bathrooms of certain schools at no cost to students.
  • The House Judiciary Committee approved several bills, including bills to establish a registry for individuals who have committed certain acts of abuse against elders and adults in need of protective services and to prohibit state or local law enforcement from using artificial intelligence and facial recognition to engage in surveillance with certain exceptions.
  • The House passed two general bills to require a child successfully complete kindergarten before being admitted to the first grade and to further provide for the duties and membership of the Literacy Task Force.
  • The Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee approved a number of bills, including bills to extend privilege assessments for hospitals and nursing homes through August 2025; to provide a four-percent pay raise for state workers; and the General Fund budget for FY23.
  • The Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee approved a couple of bills, including a bill to further provide for approval of solid waste management sites by local governing bodies.
  • The Senate Education Policy Committee approved a House-passed bill to authorize Board of Trustees of the University of West Alabama to hold certain meeting by audio/video conference under certain conditions.
  • The Senate passed three of six bills on a Special-Order Calendar, including a bill to increase the membership of the Armory Commission; to further define the sales and use tax exemption for bullion; and to prohibit certain medical procedures for minors who intend to alter gender appearance and provide criminal penalties for violations.
Thursday, 15th day of regular session:
  • The House quickly completed work on a six-bill special order calendar containing measures to assist military members and their families in service to the country. They recessed late morning for a joint session to honor those serving or who have served in the military as a part of Military Appreciation Day. Following the recess, the House passed a number of bills of local application only and non-controversial bills including one that would extend the ability to create a first-time and second-chance home buyer savings account.
  • The Senate passed the General Fund budget for FY23 and other accompanying bills, including a pay increase for active state employees.

February 28, 2022 Group Watch: Ivey Applauds Schools Dropping Mask Mandates

Governor Kay Ivey applauded the state’s schools and universities that have ended face mask requirements, in keeping with her commitment to getting back to “normal.” At the height of the pandemic, Ivey encouraged mask-wearing but allowed her statewide mask order to expire in April 2021. She said wearing masks, social distancing and good hygiene practices have been instrumental in keeping more people from getting sick or dying during peak times of virus surge. According to reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just over 50  percent of the state’s residents are fully vaccinated.

February 28, 2022 Group Watch: Bill Restricting Transgender Bathroom Access Passes AL House

A bill to require Alabama public school students to use restrooms and locker rooms designated for the sex shown on their birth certificates passed the House of Representatives. The bill’s sponsor said the purpose of the legislation was to protect the safety and privacy of girls. Opponents of the bill said it would add to the ostracization of students already facing difficulties because of gender dysphoria. The Republican majority passed the bill over the opposition of Democrats by a vote of 74-24. During the debate, it was stated the Alabama State Board of Education does not have a policy that regulates bathroom use by transgender students but local districts are providing accommodations in some instances.

February 28, 2022 Group Watch: AL House Passes Hotly Debated Bills Affecting Law Enforcement

The Alabama House of Representatives approved a bill to repeal the state’s requirement for a permit to carry a concealed handgun. Sheriffs and police have urged lawmakers to keep the permit requirement, saying it is important tool for preventing and solving crimes. The House changed its normal rules for the day, limiting debate on two bills to two hours, after which, the gun bill passed 65-37. The very next bill was one to create mandatory jail terms for people arrested and convicted on charges of rioting. The sponsor of that bill says stronger laws are needed to stop organized efforts to cause violence at otherwise peaceful protests. This measure was also vigorously debated for approximately two hours before passing along partisan lines.

February 28, 2022 Group Watch: Companies Honored with Governor’s Trade Excellence Awards

Governor Ivey recognized seven Alabama companies for success in selling their goods and services in markets across the globe, helping to sustain robust export activities that create jobs and spark economic growth across the state. She also recognized William Cummins, executive state director of the Alabama Small Business Development Center Network, for excellency in trade advocacy. Recipients of this year’s Governor’s Trade Excellence Awards are:

  • Cherokee Fabrication Co. This light metal fabrication shop in Lee County has served the cotton industry for 25 years, and its footprint now includes North America, South America, Africa and Australia.
  • CleBer LLC. This company has a design system for its Oggun tractor and provides parts off-the-shelf, empowering small farmers.
  • Continental Aerospace Technologies. It’s the only U.S. company to offer a full range of new piston aircraft engines, as well as a full-service factory maintenance repair and overhaul center.
  • Eastern Technologies Inc. This company provides Personal Protective Clothing to nuclear and other industries. It is a leader in the field of radiological laundry services, protective clothing supply and radiological laundry system design.
  • iCubate Inc. This company provides fast, accurate and affordable testing assays to laboratories, helping improve patient-care outcomes.
  • Nelson Brothers. Nelson produces chemicals that are used by manufacturers of emulsions around the world for applications in mining and construction. Its global footprint includes specialty chemicals used around the world in oil recovery processes.
  • SynVivo. This company’s tissue/organ-on-chip platform provides a biologically realistic microenvironment to enable better prediction of human responses for drug development and personalized medicine applications.

February 28, 2022 Group Watch: Senate Approves Bill to Delay Literacy Act

The Alabama Senate passed a bill by Sen. Rodger Smitherman of Birmingham to delay the implementation of the Literacy Act by a 20-12 vote. The bill pushes a reading proficiency requirement for third graders to move to fourth grade from the current school year to the 2023-24 school year. A similar bill by Rep. Terri Collins proposes to delay the implementation of the requirement to the 2022-23 year. The Literacy Act law contained a provision to hold back third grade students who do not score above the lowest achievement level on a state test; get an unacceptable score on an alternate test; or fail to show mastery of minimum standards. That provision will kick in at the end of this year if it is not delayed. Educators have pushed for a delay in the retention provision due to the impacts COVID has had on education in the last two years.

February 28, 2022 Group Watch: Jefferson Co. Dept of Public Health Pushing for Legalization of Fentanyl Tests

With the highly dangerous drug fentanyl playing a role in four out of every five drug overdose deaths in Jefferson County last year, that area’s Public Health Department is encouraging the legislature to make tests that can detect fentanyl legal in the state. The Senate has already passed a bill to make the cheap and easy-to-use test strips legal, and the legislation is now on its way to the House. Read more here.

February 28, 2022 Group Watch: Senator Marsh Pushes for Action on Education This Session

Last week, Senator Del Marsh made the argument for more parental choice and more accountability in schools, encouraging his counterparts to pass legislation this session that makes it clear state leadership is unhappy with Alabama’s lower national education rankings. His school-choice bill was sent to a study commission, signaling its not likely to pass this session. During the floor discussion, Sen. Bobby Singleton said that he hopes the commission looks at some of the environmental factors in low-income school systems that lead to poor student performance. Singleton is a member of a bipartisan commission of Representatives and Senators that met for the first time on Wednesday outside the presence of non-commission members.

February 28, 2022 Group Watch: Childcare Workers Get Bonuses

More than 10,000 Alabama childcare workers are receiving bonuses totaling $12.6 million. These bonuses come after the first round of Child Care Workforce Stabilization grants from the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR). The second round will run from February 28 through March 18. The DHR awarded grants to 1,278 child care providers who applied in December 2021 and January 2022. These grants are composed of bonuses that total $1,500 for full-time employees and $750 for part-time employees. According to DHR Commissioner Nancy Buckner, “These bonuses will help recruit much-needed reinforcements and reward current employees for their dedicated service to the children and families of Alabama.” Eligible employees may receive up to eight quarterly bonuses before the two-year grant period ends in September 2023. Funding for the grants comes from the American Rescue Plan Act.

February 21, 2022 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

Some hot button issues are likely to be on the agenda in the legislature in the next few weeks. Gambling is coming back again, and the sponsor of the latest bill says he’s expecting opposition from multiple groups. A bill focused on transgender bathrooms in schools has made it through committee.

Other bills unlikely to generate controversy moved forward this week, including a bill authorizing the addition of a Space National Guard as part of the Alabama National Guard and a bill to further expand high-speed internet access in rural areas.

And more good news about the state’s booming economy was released last week as well. Keep reading for more details on all this and more.

The House and Senate return on Tuesday, February 22 at 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., respectively.

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