May 20, 2021 Group Watch: Elements of Alabama Literacy Act Delayed

Thanks to to learning losses sustained due to the pandemic, Alabama lawmakers voted to delay for two years a provision in the Alabama Literacy Act, a law passed in 2019 to emphasize reading instruction in the earliest grades. The law says that beginning with the 2021-2022 school year, third graders would have to show they can read at grade level in order to be promoted to fourth grade. The House gave final passage of a Senate-passed bill to delay that time provision until the 2023-2024 school years. The bill passed by a vote of 68-27, and now goes to the governor who could sign it into law.

May 20, 2021 Group Watch: “Big” Bills That Failed to Advance

Alabama lawmakers finished their annual session without taking a vote on a bill to criminalize hormone treatments and surgeries as transitional therapies for minors with gender dysphoria. It was one of the most closely watched bills throughout the 15-week legislative session. A bill to allow voters to decide whether to allow a lottery and casinos failed to surface on the last night of the session. This matter is far from over and is likely to resurface in a future session. There are likely to be special sessions later this year, and the 2022 regular session starts in January.

May 10, 2021 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

With the session drawing to its close, two of this year’s headline-garnering bills are facing opposite fates.

The medical marijuana bill passed the legislature last Thursday. If Governor Ivey signs it, it the use of marijuana to treat multiple medical conditions will be legal in Alabama.

However, the gambling bill stalled, and it now looks likely that it will end up on the list of bills that died in the regular session. During debate in the House, tensions were high, and many were playing the blame game.

After a busy week, the legislature has taken this week off and returns for the final day of the regular session on Monday, May 17.

Read more on all this and other last-minute legislative activity below.

The House and Senate return on May 17 at 10 am and 11 am respectively.
Watch live video of both chambers here.

  • Tuesday, May 4 (28th legislative day): The House Education Policy Committee approved a Senate-passed bill to postpone the third-grade retention requirement until the 2024-2025 school year. The House Ways and Means Education, the House State Government, and the House Economic Development and Tourism Committees approved three bills relating to creating a state lottery, to regulate gaming and the extent to which operators could make campaign contributions. Four hours, the full House debated a bill that would allow some form of medical cannabis to be used by certain individuals under certain circumstances but took no vote on the matter. The Senate approved House-passed bills to: require mental health awareness to be included in the annual training session for employees of each K-12 school; provide for an education assistance program for the children of service persons; provide for the broadcast of public K-12 school sporting events; establish learning opportunities outside of typical public K-12 classrooms for credit; and establish the Alabama Innovation Corporation to advance research and technology for small businesses.
  • Wednesday, May 5 (a committee day): There were four bills of local application only approved by the House Committee on Local Legislation relating to Bullock, Blount, Cullman, and Limestone counties. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved House-passed bills to establish the Alabama Non-Disparagement Obligations Act and further provide penalties for persons selling and distributing a controlled substance that results in a death.
  • Thursday, May 6 (29th legislative day): The House approved Senate-passed bills to establish a program to allow the use of medical cannabis for certain conditions, and to adopt Daylight Savings Time statewide if Congress amends federal law to allow it. The House also approved Senate-passed bills of local application only. The Senate approved House-passed bills to establish the Seizure Safe Schools Act and a bill to authorize local boards of education to offer yoga as an elective in grades K-12. They also approved House-passed bills of local application only.

May 10, 2021 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

@GovernorKayIvey
May 9
My mom was a trailblazer. She was a mother, wife, & homemaker. She rose from being a teller to VP & cashier at Camden National Bank. She taught me the importance of strong character & of paying attention to details as I addressed big goals. I miss her dearly. Happy #MothersDay!

May 10, 2021 Group Watch: Medical Marijuana in AL One Step Away from Legality

The Alabama House of Representatives approved a bill that would create a statewide marijuana program in a historic vote following a debate spanning more than two days and that included some robust opposition. The House voted 68 to 34 to approve the bill by Senator Tim Melson after a lengthy filibuster from about a half-dozen legislators against the bill delayed the vote. Melson’s bill would authorize the use of medical cannabis for roughly a dozen conditions, including cancer, chronic pain, depression, sickle-cell anemia, terminal illnesses and HIV/AIDS. Patients would need a doctor’s approval to use medical marijuana. The bill forbids smoking, vaping or ingesting cannabis in baked goods. It could be consumed as tablets, capsules, gelatins or vaporized oils. The bill requires any cannabis gummies manufactured to have one flavor. Read more details here.

May 10, 2021 Group Watch: Gambling Bill Stalls in House; Tempers Flare

Lottery and casino legislation stalled in the Alabama House last week. Lawmakers did not vote on the bill after negotiations failed to muster enough support. The demise of the legislation led to finger-pointing over who was responsible and some blamed an unsuccessful effort by Republicans to switch the bill for a GOP-backed lottery proposal. House Speaker Mac McCutcheon said he believes the outlook for the bills are doubtful with only one day remaining in the 2021 regular session. Many believe the bills will resurface in one of several special sessions that are likely to be called.

May 10, 2021 Group Watch: End Dates for State’s COVID-19 Health Orders Announced

Governor Kay Ivey announced that Alabama’s COVID-19 public health order and state of emergency have both been extended for the final time. The public health order, currently called “Safer Apart,” will end May 31, 2021, and the state of emergency will end July 6, 2021. Ivey first declared a state of emergency due to the coronavirus on March 13, 2020; she has extended and amended the public health order several time since then. The newest iteration of Ivey’s Safer Apart order consists primarily of recommendations aligned with CDC guidance. Specific guidance applies to two groups; Senior Citizen Centers must continue to follow guidelines issued by the Alabama Department of Senior Services. Hospitals and nursing homes must follow current guidance from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services with respect to visitation.

May 10, 2021 Group Watch: Ivey Signs Pay Raises Into Law

Governor Ivey made it official when she signed into law bills to provide a 2-percent pay raise for K-12 education personnel and state employees. The raises were first discussed during the governor’s State of the State address in February at the start of the 2021 regular session of the legislature. The governor thanked legislative leaders in both the House and Senate for sharing her vision and letting public workers across the state see our appreciation for their dedication and hard work.

May 10, 2021 Group Watch: K-12 “Due Process” Bill Fails to Advance

The House Education Policy Committee declined to advance a bill that would have established a statewide procedure for due process for K-12 students facing suspensions and expulsions. The bill would require school boards to hold hearings before making disciplinary decisions. The legislation would have also required systems to use impartial hearing officers. The bill would have prohibited suspending or expelling students pre-k through 5th grade unless their actions endangered the physical safety of other students or staff. The bill passed the Senate 22-4, and the bill’s sponsor Senator Rodger Smitherman of Birmingham says he plans to bring the bill back next year.

May 10, 2021 Group Watch: The End is Near: 2021 Bill Status

Every year, some bills make it and others “die,” failing to get enough support and votes to make it to the governor’s desk. Check out this rundown on the status of bills now that we’re at the tail end of the 2021 regular session. There are a few big issues, like gambling and transgender legislation, still alive, so we’ll see!

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