March 14, 2022 Group Watch: AL Senate Committee Approves Lottery & Gambling Package

The Alabama Senate Tourism Committee approved legislation that would authorize a lottery and at least five casinos in the state; it would also create a state gaming commission that could crackdown on established gambling. The committee approved the bills without dissenting votes. The proposed legislation would grant “emergency powers to an authorized state gambling commission to demand information from existing gambling operators.” The commission will also charge “reasonable fees” for operation.

March 14, 2022 Group Watch: Lawmakers Pass Bill To Legalize Fentanyl Test Strips

The Alabama Legislature passed a bill to make it legal to use and distribute test strips that detect the presence of fentanyl in other drugs in an effort to prevent overdoses. Fentanyl is an addictive opioid far more potent than heroin that is often added to illegal street drugs. The Jefferson County Coroner’s office reported that 400 people died of overdoses in Jefferson County last year, shattering the previous record of 302 set in 2020. Fentanyl was a factor in 316 of the deaths last year. Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Mark Wilson urged lawmakers to approve the bill, a move that would follow changing federal guidelines and similar efforts in other states to increase the availability of test strips. It is estimated that the strips cost between $1 to $3.50 apiece, depending on the quantity bought. Federal agencies have approved the use of federal dollars to buy fentanyl tests for distribution.

March 14, 2022 Group Watch: Senate Passes Board of Optometry Bill

A bill expanding the services and procedures optometrists are allowed to provide in Alabama passed the Senate last week. If it becomes law, the Alabama Board of Optometry would be the sole authority regulating the expansion of certain practices and procedures for optometrists. It would also require optometrists providing these procedures to meet certain training benchmarks. Senator Del Marsh, R-Anniston, sponsored the bill, which also has the steadfast support of Senator Jim McClendon, R-Springville. It also faces Republican opposition. Proponents note than optometrists already train for the procedures in question, including certain eye injections and incisions, and perform them in multiple other states. They say allowing the same to happen in Alabama would expand access to this care. Currently, these procedures are often performed by ophthalmologists, and opponents say it should remain that way.

March 14, 2022 Group Watch: Governor Signs Bill to End Concealed Carry Permit Requirement

Alabama lawmakers gave final approval to a bill to repeal the requirement for a permit to carry a concealed handgun, an idea proposed for about the last 10 years. Gov. Ivey immediately signed the legislation into law, which takes effect in January 2023. The House and Senate voted mostly along party lines to approve the conference committee report. The bill has been one of the most controversial of the year, with opposition from the Alabama Sheriffs Association and others in law enforcement. They say the permit requirement is an important public safety tool. Supporters of the bill call it “constitutional carry” and say the requirement for a permit and a background check infringes on the Second Amendment.

March 14, 2022 Group Watch: Governor Awards $10M in Pandemic Relief Grants For Volunteer Fire Departments

Governor Kay Ivey has awarded $10 million in COVID-19 pandemic relief funding to establish grants for volunteer fire departments. The grant program was established from the State Fiscal Recovery Fund with dollars received under the state’s portion of the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. For providers that meet eligibility requirements, the state will offer grants up to the amount of $10,320. The application period for the Alabama Volunteer Fire Department COVID Recovery Grant program will be open from noon, March 7 through noon, March 25, 2022.

March 14, 2022 Group Watch: Alabama Innovation Corporation Board Holds First Meeting

The Alabama Innovation Corporation board of directors recently held its first meeting. Established through legislation signed by Governor Kay Ivey, the Alabama Innovation Corporation is charged with implementing policies designed to make Alabama a hub for technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. The board was officially seated in December and is chaired by state finance director Bill Poole, and will partner with the private sector, governmental entities and lawmakers to craft programs and policies to support the state’s innovation sector. In 2021, the legislature appropriated $10 million to the Innovation Corporation, with $5 million of the funds being used for the Innovate Alabama Matching Grant Program. The program will grant funds of up to $250,000 to awardees of the federal Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs. Poole commended Governor Ivey and the legislature for their support of corporation’s mission to bolster Alabama’s innovation economy.

March 14, 2022 Group Watch: Alabama Rep. David Wheeler Dies

Rep. David Wheeler, R-Vestavia Hills, has died at age 72. Rep. Wheeler won election in Jefferson County in 2018 and was unopposed for re-nomination in the Republican primary in this historically Republican district. A long-time official in the Jefferson County Republican Party, he was an accountant by training who worked for decades for Alabama Power and served as president of a pest control company. Our heartfelt condolences are extended to his family.

March 14, 2022 Group Watch: House Majority Leader Praises World Games’ Ban on Russian Athletes

House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter applauded a recent decision by Birmingham organizers and officials of The World Games. The World Games 2022 Organizing Committee announced that it had banned Russian and Belarusian athletes from participating in the upcoming July competitions due to the nations’ unprovoked aggression toward Ukraine. According to World Game organizers, more than 60 Russian athletes have been banned as a result of the decision. Ledbetter called the ban a “commonsense and just reaction” given Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unwarranted invasion of the Eastern European nation. The World Games 2022 will take place in Birmingham, July 7-17.

March 7, 2022 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

Last week, it sure felt like spring had arrived, and while the season may “officially” be a few weeks off, Alabama’s Republican legislators had some spring in their steps after Senate Majority Leader Clay Scofield outlined his party’s major accomplishments so far. The legislature’s 2022 regular session has hit the halfway mark, and, according to Scofield, a lot of good work has already been done; see details of his comments below. 

Still to come but moving quickly ahead is a bill to repeal the state’s concealed carry permit. It’s met some resistance but isn’t slowing down.

More businesses are expanding all over the state, continuing the trend from last year. Bonnie Plants is among them, growing bigger in Bullock County.

And as the world is bombarded with images of the conflict and destruction in Ukraine,Governor Ivey called on all Alabamians to keep the country in their thoughts. She proclaimed last Wednesday an official day of prayer for the nation. Read all about it and more below.

The House and Senate return on Tuesday, March 8 at 2 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., respectively.

March 7, 2022 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

Feb 25
With no intention to follow in my father’s journalism footsteps, today I was elected President of the APA’s – Journalism Foundation. The same honor bestowed on Dad 14 years ago. I imagine he was looking down today with a little bit of pride. I know I was looking up.

The Bloom Group, Inc.

401 Adams Avenue, Suite 710
Montgomery, Alabama 36104
Telephone: (334) 244-8948
Fax: (334) 213-0688

Live Audio Feed

Listen to your senators and representatives at work. Click here to find links to live audio of the House and audio plus video of the Senate.

Alabama Civil Justice Reform Committee

Alabama Civil Justice Reform Committee

The News You Need

Find the latest information on all things Alabama politics on Alabama Today.