June 2021 Group Watch: AL Lawmakers Reflect on Session; Tout Medical Marijuana Law

Legislators in Limestone County recently rehashed the activity of the 2021 regular session and called it, overall, “a success.” There was much discussion of the passage of the medical marijuana bill and the governor signing it into law, something that only a few years ago, seemed impossible. Several in attendance spoke about overcoming opposition and praised the benefits it will provide for those who need it. Read more here.

June 2021 Group Watch: State Rep. Selected for Exclusive Leadership Program

State Rep. Rex Reynolds, R-Huntsville, was selected to participate in the 2021 Emerging Legislative Leaders Program at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. The program is sponsored in conjunction with the state Legislative Leaders Foundation. It allows up to 50 of the best and brightest legislators from across the nation to participate in intensive case studies, problem-solving exercises and small-group discussions designed to further heighten their already proven leadership skills. Reynolds was selected from more than 200 lawmakers nationwide who were nominated for the 50 slots. Since 2005, more than 600 legislators have benefited from the program.

June 2021 Group Watch: Nancy Gardner Sewell, Mother of U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, Dies

Congresswoman Terri Sewell announced on social media the passing of her mother. She was 81 at the time of her death and was the first African-American councilwoman for Selma, Alabama. We extend our profound condolences to Rep. Terri Sewell and the family.

May 20, 2021 Group Watch:

The 2021 regular session of the Alabama Legislature is over. The body met for its 30th and final legislative day this past Monday.

Every year, there are legislative winners and losers, and this year was no different. On the success side, the big news includes the passage of a medical marijuana bill that has now been signed into law and the passage of the biggest education budget in state history.

And at the beginning of the session, a series of gambling bills seemed to hold real promise. Then the issue stalled, then gained steam, only to stall out again and eventually die right at the end of session.

For this and all the bills pronounced dead, there’s always next year (or a special session)! Check out our summary on this and other political news below.

2021 Session Recap
WINNERS

  • The governor signed into law the bill allowing medical marijuana in Alabama for certain conditions and illnesses.
  • Lawmakers gave final approval to a bill to ban curbside voting
  • The House gave final approval to a Senate-passed bill banning vaccine passports.
  • Lawmakers approved legislation to lift the state’s decades-old ban on yoga in public schools.
  • The House gave final approval to a Senate-passed bill to delay for two years certain provisions of the Alabama Literacy Act.
  • Lawmakers gave final approval for the general fund budget for the next fiscal year, which include a 2-percent raise for public workers.
  • The largest education budget in the history of the state, providing teachers with a 2-percent salary increase, expansion of the pre-K program, incentives to retain and attract math, science and technology instructors, and funding for expanded health and mental health services for school children.
  • The governor signed into law legislation to allow restaurants and retailers to deliver limited amounts of beer, wine and liquor to private residences.

LOSERS

  • A series of bills that would have allowed the people of the state to vote on the establishment of a state lottery and the creation of a gaming commission to oversee and regulate gaming and to allocate the proceeds. House members were unable to reach an agreement that would have the support needed to pass.
  • A measure to ban certain treatments for transgender minors did not receive a vote in the House.
  • Legislation to make it a crime for local police officers to enforce any new federal gun restrictions.

May 20, 2021 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

@AL_League

May 15
Greg Cochran, ALM Executive Director, and ALM’s newly elected President and Vice President recognized Immediate Past President Mayor Leigh Dollar of Guntersville for her outstanding leadership on behalf of the League and its membership.

May 20, 2021 Group Watch: Alabama Stands with Israel

Before the session was over, the Senate passed a resolution outlining the state’s support of Israel. It expresses “solidarity with Israel in its defense against terrorism in the Gaza Strip.” Read the full resolution below.

SJR138-int

May 20, 2021 Group Watch: Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Challenging Kay Ivey’s Prison Plan

A Montgomery County Circuit Judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by State Auditor Jim Zeigler and others challenging Gov. Ivey’s plan to lease and operate privately owned prisons. The court granted a request by the Alabama Department of Corrections to dismiss the case. The court rejected claims that the prison leases violate a state law that prohibits the leasing of the facilities without consent of the legislature. Plaintiffs in the case are Zeigler, state Rep. John Rogers of Birmingham, Kenny Glasgow, a pastor and prisoner rights advocate from Houston County, and Leslie Ogburn, whose property adjoins the site of a proposed prison near Tallassee in Elmore County. Defendants were Governor Ivey, Prison Commissioner Jeff Dunn, and two real estate entities formed and owned by CoreCivic. CoreCivic has until June 1 to obtain financing for construction of the two proposed prisons in central and south Alabama.

May 20, 2021 Group Watch: Special Session or Sessions Looking Likely

Many are predicting at least one and maybe two special sessions coming later this year, maybe in August. Topics including prison construction, redistricting and the distribution of the federal funds coming Alabama’s way as part of the recently passed American Rescue Plan Act will require attention before the 2022 regular session. Read more here.

May 20, 2021 Group Watch: Medical Marijuana Legal in Alabama

Governor Kay Ivey has signed into law a bill that will allow Alabamians to use medical marijuana products for more than a dozen conditions and symptoms such as chronic pain, depression, seizures, muscle spasticity and terminal illnesses. The bill sets up a system to regulate medical marijuana from the cultivation of the plants, to processing and testing the products, to selling them in dispensaries. Doctors will be able to recommend medical cannabis for patients who will receive medical cannabis cards to buy tablets, gel cubes and other forms of medical cannabis products. Raw plant material, products that could be smoked or vaped and food products such as cookies or candies will not be allowed. Alabama becomes the 37th state to legalize medical marijuana.

May 20, 2021 Group Watch: Ivey Ending Extra Unemployment Benefits; Biz Owners Relieved

On June 19, Alabama is pulling the plug on federal boosts to unemployment, including the extra $300 a week for those collecting benefits. In parts of the state, “Now Hiring” signs aren’t hard to find, which is one of the reasons Ivey announced she is putting a stop to the additional unemployment. The pandemic unemployment programs mean people in Alabama have been getting up to $575 a week in unemployment for up to 54 weeks due to the pandemic as opposed to the standard benefits capping out at $275 a week for 14 weeks. The Alabama Department of Labor has paid out more than $5 billion in claims in the last year, which is more money than the last 12 years combined with the help of federal dollars. The Alabama Department of Labor will continue paying out the additional $300 a week for new claims filed before June 19. The state’s unemployment rate is 3.8 percent, the lowest in the Southeast.

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