March 7, 2022 Group Watch: Senate Passes Alabama Numeracy Act

The Alabama Senate passed legislation that seeks to improve math instruction and prohibit the use of Common Core State Standards in K-12 public schools. The bill called the ”Alabama Numeracy Act” is sponsored by Senator Arthur Orr. The Senate-approved bill has as its purpose to address K-5 math proficiency statistics by providing for summer learning programs, assessment tests, accountability standards for teachers and principals and additional training and standards for teacher education programs. The bill in its current form would require the state superintendent and the Alabama Board of Education to terminate the state’s flexibility waiver agreement with the U.S. Department of Education relating to the federally-enacted Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which includes the adoption of the Common Core State Standards. The Numeracy Act provides for the hiring of hundreds of math coaches to support our educators in the classroom.

March 7, 2022 Group Watch: Repeal of AL’s Concealed Carry Permit Requirement Passes Senate

A House-passed bill to repeal Alabama’s requirement for a permit to carry a concealed handgun moved a step closer to becoming law. The Senate passed the legislation after the Republican majority voted to end debate and voted to pass the bill 23-6. The bill will have to return to the House because of Senate amendments. They will receive the bill back on Tuesday and can accept the Senate changes or go to a conference committee to resolve any differences.

March 7, 2022 Group Watch: Senator Introduces Gambling Legislation

Despite some noting the lateness of the hour in terms of regular session time left, Senator Greg Albritton (R-Atmore) has followed through on plans he’d announced earlier and proposed two gambling bills last week. One would authorize a state lottery; the other would allow casinos and sports betting in the state. While both are close to bills that failed to gain traction last year, there are a few differences. Read more here.

March 7, 2022 Group Watch: Lt. Governor Offers Bill Limiting Municipal Traffic Revenue

Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth announced legislation aiming to prevent aggressive traffic policing tactics such as those reported by the Brookside Police Department. According to a media outlet, the in 2020, the town of Brookside generated 49 percent of its revenue from traffic fines. The town’s recorded population sits at 1,253 residents. Ainsworth’s legislation would require that only 10 percent of a municipality’s budget may consist of traffic fines and penalties. Any additional traffic-related revenue received by a municipality must be directed to the Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund and the Fair Trial Tax Fund. Ainsworth called for the Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts to conduct a forensic audit of the Brookside Police Department. Ainsworth’s legislation is carried by Sen. Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman) and Rep. Louise Alexander (D-Bessemer).

March 7, 2022 Group Watch: Shelby Lands $100M Grant for AL Commerce Infrastructure

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has awarded a $100 million joint grant to the Mobile Airport Authority and the Alabama State Port Authority. The grant enables the two entities to participate in the DOT Transportation Demonstration Program to allow for the enhancement of existing infrastructure. According to a press release, the DOT investment will pave the way for streamlined aviation, maritime, rail and highway infrastructure systems. The program will serve to upgrade the Port of Mobile’s freight container operations by providing start-up for a dedicated inter-terminal connector with rail access to the Port Authority’s terminal railway and five Class I railroads. A two-site logistics park will be developed to support an integrated, intermodal seaport, airport and rail terminal network for domestic and international freight movement. Shelby, vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the funding for this effort represents one of the most significant grant awards he has secured for the state in his more than four decades-long congressional career.

March 7, 2022 Group Watch: Rural Alabama Project Pipeline Sparks New Growth

Bryant Whaley, the top economic developer for Randolph County, is riding the momentum. Despite the disruptions of a global pandemic, this rural county in eastern Alabama has seen three major corporate growth projects since August 2020, creating more than 300 jobs. Whaley is optimistic that even more economic activity is on the way. Recently, plans were announced for a retail development there that will create 40 jobs. Victory Game Clocks, a Roanoke-based maker of scoreboards, play clocks, practice timers and other sports timing devices, is considering an expansion with a new 20,000-square-foot building and 20 additional employees. Companies in many different industries are waking up to the fact that Alabama’s rural counties have a lot to offer. At the top of the list are factors such as a low cost of doing business and motivated workforces that get the job done. On the state level, one development that’s poised to spur growth in Alabama’s rural areas is a significant expansion of the availability of high-speed internet service, considered a critical element for sustained economic growth. The legislature recently approved a plan to use $277 million of the state’s share of the American Rescue Plan Act to expand broadband available with rural communities set to perhaps benefit the most.

March 7, 2022 Group Watch: Bonnie Plants Opens Expanded Greenhouse Facilities

Bonnie Plants, the nation’s largest grower of vegetable and herb plants for home gardens, unveiled a multimillion-dollar expansion and upgrade of the company’s greenhouse facilities in rural Bullock County. Opelika-based Bonnie Plants said the new growing and distribution facilities in Union Springs are designed to strengthen e-commerce operations and improve production, creating jobs and paving a new foundation of growth for the company. The expanded operations bring around 60 jobs to Bullock County, where Bonnie Plants was founded in 1918. More than 200 associates, including full and part-time peak season associates, will support the increased production in Union Springs. The expanded facilities include 305,000-square-feet of open-roof, natural-ventilation greenhouses that offer better temperature and humidity control, energy savings and a reduced need for irrigation compared to traditional fan and shutter greenhouses.

February 28, 2022 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

Guns, riots and transgender bathroom rules for schools: Three headline-garnering bills that all topped the majority caucus’ agenda passed by the House early last week, and then both chambers moved on to work less likely to generate debate, including the Senate’s passage of the General Fund Budget for FY23.

In other news, schools around the state, including state universities, have dropped mask mandates for students, a move that Governor Ivey praised. The governor also gave kudos to several Alabama companies that have enjoyed stellar success with global exports in the last year, honoring them with her annual Trade Excellence Awards.

Find details on the above and much more in this issue of Group Watch.

February 28, 2022 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

Feb 26

I planned to plant tulips and daffodils on my backyard today. Instead, I learn to fire arms and get ready for the next night of attacks on #Kyiv. We are not going anywhere. This is our #city, our #land, our soil. We will fight for it. So next week I can plant my flowers. Here.

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.

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