May 2022 Group Watch: Governor Announces Two Additional Mental Health Centers

Governor Kay Ivey recently announced the funding of two additional Mental Health Crisis Centers, further expanding the Alabama Crisis System of Care. The two centers add to the four existing centers in Huntsville, Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile, currently serving individuals with mental illness and substance use disorders at staged levels of care. The fiscal year 2023 awarded Community Mental Health Centers are Indian Rivers Behavioral Health in Tuscaloosa County and SpectraCare Health Systems in Houston County. Mental Health Crisis Centers are designated places for community members, law enforcement and first responders to take an individual who is in mental health crisis. Services include critical crisis intervention and stabilization services, discharge planning and connections to ongoing behavioral health care services.

May 2022 Group Watch: Caddell Construction To Build Specialized Care Prison

Alabama has hired Caddell Construction Co. to build a specialized men’s prison facility in Elmore County. The contract with Caddell, which is based in Montgomery, was effective in mid-April. The contract is the latest step in a process the Ivey administration has pursued for several years to overhaul Alabama’s prison system. Alabama has not built a prison since the mid-1990s. During a legislative special session in October, 2021, a plan was approved to build two 4,000-bed men’s prisons, one in Elmore County and one in Escambia County. The two new prisons will be much larger than any of Alabama’s 13 existing men’s prisons. The two prisons are the first of several phases of construction, renovations and prison closings planned. B. L. Harbert International, based in Birmingham, is expected to be the main contractor for the Escambia County prison.

May 2022 Group Watch: AL Innovation Corporation Approves Budget, Creates Exec Director Position

The Alabama Innovation Corporation, a statewide public-private partnership tasked with promoting the state’s innovation economy, recently held its second board meeting. At the meeting, the corporation’s board of directors approved the creation of an executive director position and its associated job description. The executive director position will be charged with overseeing strategic operations, staff management and program implementation for the corporation. The position will also assist in advancing the corporation’s mission through partnership, developing core programs and managing the innovation-oriented directive of the entity. The board also adopted a budget and bylaws and updated the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer program. Included in the $10 million budget is funding for the Innovate Alabama Matching Grant Program, the addition of administrative and professional staff and executive director, and strategic communications partners for marketing purposes. Alabama State Finance Director Bill Poole is chair of the corporation board.

May 2022 Group Watch: Longtime Baldwin County House Member Dies

Rep. Steve McMillan of Gulf Shores, a Republican who served in the Alabama House of Representatives for more than 40 years, has died. He announced in January that he had been diagnosed with three brain tumors and would be undergoing treatment. McMillan was the dean of the Alabama House. He was first elected to the district 95 seat as a Democrat in a special election in 1980 and switched to the Republican Party in 1993. Rep. McMillan was funeralized on May 7 at the Gulf Shores United Methodist Church. He will be missed by all of his colleagues and friends.

April 11, 2022 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

All things must end, including lawmaking, and the Alabama Legislature’s 2022 regular session came to a close last week; on Thursday, the House and Senate adjourned Sine Die. High-profile bills like those to authorize gambling didn’t make it, while a bill concerning transgender medical treatments did.Several groups got raises, and a bill to put new limits and requirements on unemployment compensation was passed. And the requirements for Alabama students’ reading proficiency, passed in 2019, will now be delayed for a year if Governor Ivey signs that passed bill; it is expected that she will.

Going forward, Group Watch will return to its once-a-month schedule, so watch your inboxes for the next issue in mid-May. We’ll be back with weekly dispatches next year, when this all gets rolling again!

The House and Senate adjourned Sine Die on Thursday, April 7.

April 11, 2022 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

April 7
No step too high for a high stepper.

April 11, 2022 Group Watch: Legislature Day-by-Day, Play-by-Play

Tuesday, 27th day of regular session: 
  • The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee approved a Senate-passed bill to create the Alabama Second Amendment Preservation Act to provide prohibitions on the use of certain public resources and personnel to enforce certain federal actions relating to firearms, accessories and ammunition.
  • The House Ways and Means General Fund Committee approved a Senate-passed bill to create the State Employee Retirees’ Trust Fund Funding Act to establish a separate fund to provide for future periodic retiree bonuses.
  • The House Ways and Means Education Committee approved a Senate-passed bill to increase the per semester loan repayment award for qualified math and science teachers.
  • The House gave final passage to Senate-passed bills to: further provide for virtual court hearings in criminal cases; postpone until 2024-25 school year the third-grade retention requirement in the Literacy Act; provide for virtual meetings of governmental bodies; and to further provide for telehealth and telemedicine.
  • The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee approved House-passed bills to: provide for virtual meetings of the board of trustees for the Alabama Trust Fund; require criminal justice agencies to annually submit a report with certain information relative to sexual assault cases and sexually-oriented criminal offenses; and to prohibit the state and any of its political subdivisions from teaching certain concepts relating to race, sex or religion in certain training.
  • The Senate gave final approval to House-passed bills to authorize the Secretary of State to provide digital copies of all bills, resolutions and memorials; to provide that up to $6,000 of taxable retirement income is exempt from state income tax for individuals 65 years of age or older; to further provide for the duties and membership of the Literacy Task Force; and to further provide for service of garnishment notice.
Wednesday, 28th day of regular session:
  • The House passed several Senate-passed bills including bills to allow county licensing officials to contract with a third party with county commission approval for materials provided for print-on-demand validation decals; and to require individuals to search for work a certain number of times per week to be eligible for unemployment compensation.
  • The Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee approved several bills including House-passed bills to: increase the per semester loan repayment award for qualified math and science teachers; require the State Board of Education to phase in the employment of auxiliary teachers to assist classroom teachers with instructional and non-instructional activities in all public schools in the state providing instruction in grades K-3; and to increase the optional standard deduction and expand the adjusted gross income range allowable for the maximum dependent exemption.
  • The Senate passed a number of House-passed bills of local application only and House-passed general bills including bills to: establish the State Employee Retirees Trust Fund Funding Act to provide for future bonuses; provide for local approval of solid waste management sites; provide that a judge may use discretion in the length of sentence a defendant must serve if his or her probation is revoked; and to create a 180-day grace period for inmates to repay court-imposed debt after release.
Thursday, 29th day of regular session:
  • The House gave final passage to a number of Senate-passed bills of local application only and general bills including bills to: prohibit medical procedures for minors intended to alter the appearance of gender; increase the optional standard deduction amount and increase the adjusted gross income range allowable for maximum optional standard deduction and dependent exemption; and to prohibit the state enforcement of certain federal firearm laws.
  • The Senate passed several House-passed bills of local application only and general bills to: increase the loan repayment award for qualified math and science teachers per semester; authorize the Board of Optometric Scholarship Awards to conduct remote meetings and to expand the program to include loans and revise program parameters; and to require a mental health service coordinator for each school system subject to a legislative appropriation.

April 11, 2022 Group Watch: Bill Limiting How Much Municipalities Can Keep From Traffic Fines Passes

The legislature gave final approval to a bill intended to stop cities and towns from using traffic in an excessive way to fatten their budgets. The legislation came in response to the traffic trap scandal in Brookside, a Jefferson County town of about 1,200 people that used an oversized police force to triple its revenue over five years, with half the money from fines and forfeitures, which increased more than 600 percent. The new law would prohibit cities and towns from retaining money from traffic fines in amounts more than 10 percent of their general operating budgets. Municipalities would have to transfer any money above 10 percent in equal portions to the state’s Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund and the Fair Trial Tax Fund.

April 11, 2022 Group Watch: Legislature Passes New Requirements for Unemployment Compensation

The Alabama Legislature approved a bill to add new requirements to qualify for unemployment compensation. The House passed the bill along party lines after cutting off debate. The measure, which had already passed the Senate, returned to the Senate due to House changes. The Senate accepted the changes and gave the bill final approval, sending it to the governor, who is likely to sign it into law. State law already requires a “reasonable and active effort” to find work as a condition for unemployment pay. This bill further defines that as “systematic and sustained efforts to find work including contacting at least three prospective employers for each week of unemployment claimed.” The Alabama Department of Labor would require proof of work search efforts. The Department of Labor would conduct random reviews of at least 5 percent of the work search claims.

April 11, 2022 Group Watch: Lawmakers Pass Ban on Transgender Medical Treatments For Minors

The legislature passed a bill to criminalize medical treatments to help transgender minors affirm their gender identity. The Senate-passed bill passed the House by a vote of 66-28. The vote came after the Republican majority passed a petition to cut off the debate after a short time. The vote to pass the bill was mostly along party lines, with Republicans supporting it, and Democrats opposed. The bill would make it a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison for doctors to prescribe puberty blockers or hormones or to perform surgeries on transgender minors to help them transition. Doctors who provide the care say no such surgeries are done on minors in Alabama.

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