April 15, 2024 Group Watch: Healthcare-Focused High School Bill Approved by House Committee

Last week, a bill to create an advanced health care sciences high school in Demopolis passed unanimously in the House Ways and Means Education Committee. Governor Ivey first proposed the school in her 2023 “state of the state” address, and in January, Bloomberg Philanthropies pledged $26.4 million to the project, pending state investment. The school would be located adjacent to Bryan W. Whitfield Hospital, giving high-school-aged students firsthand experience. If the legislation becomes law, the school will be the fourth specialized, residential school in the state, but the first in a rural community.

April 15, 2024 Group Watch: Big Education Budget Bills Now Through House Committee

The Alabama House Education Budget Committee approved a record $9.3 billion 2025 spending plan. The proposal is very similar to the proposed budget Governor Kay Ivey sent lawmakers at the start of the session. Funding is split, with 68.2 percent for K-12 education and 25.6 percent for higher education. About 6 percent goes to other agencies. The committee approved a 2-percent raise for K-12 and two-year college educators, as well as support staff. The salary increase will cost an estimated $104.5 million. The committee recommended a one-time spending plan for the Advancement and Technology Fund of $1 billion and also approved a $651.2 million supplemental spending bill for the current year.

April 15, 2024 Group Watch: Bill to Cap Property Value Increases Passes House

The House passed HB73 by a vote of 97-1 last week. The bill limits annual increases in the assessed value of property for tax purposes, capping the increase in assessed value for residential, commercial, farm and timber property at 7 percent as compared to the previous year. The caps would take effect October 1, 2024 and expire October 1, 2027. A fiscal note estimating how much HB73 would reduce revenues was not immediately available. A fiscal note on an earlier version of the bill, when the cap was 5 percent instead of 7 percent, estimated it would reduce tax revenues by $58 million. Education groups have raised concerns about the property tax bill and about the cumulative effect of other bills that will divert money from the Education Trust Fund.

April 15, 2024 Group Watch: AL House Passes Bill Defining Sexes

On a 77-24 vote, the Alabama House passed a bill that defines man, woman, girl, boy, mother and father, and these definitions are based on reproductive systems, not gender identity. The legislation also states that “there are only two sexes.” Opponents say it “attacks” transgender rights, while proponents say it will protect women’s rights.  Read more here.

April 15, 2024 Group Watch: AL Senate Votes to Ban Vaping in Most Places

Legislation banning vaping inside public buildings made it through the Senate last week. The Alabama Clean Indoor Air Act already bans the smoking of cigarettes, pipes and other methods of tobacco-smoking from public buildings, including schools, police stations, city halls and courthouses. The current legislation expands the prohibition to include vapes and other electronic tobacco delivery systems. The bill passed 26-4 and was brought back up for reconsideration and renamed in honor of Senator Vivian Figures, who originally spearheaded the legislation to ban smoking in public places. The amended bill honoring Senator Figures passed 32-0.  The use of e-cigarettes has been on continual rise, particularly among young people. 

April 15, 2024 Group Watch: Montgomery Whitewater a Key Piece of Economic Development Plan

Commerce Secretary Ellen McNair joined a team from Innovate Alabama for a tour of Montgomery Whitewater, a world-class recreational facility that’s now hosting Olympic athletes. McNair, who is spearheading the creation of a new state economic development strategic plan, said outdoor recreation assets like Montgomery Whitewater can play an important role in the next-generation economic development strategies being developed by the state, as outdoor recreation offerings have proven powerful business-recruiting tools. Montgomery Whitewater opened in July 2023 at the Maxwell Capital Gateway to Montgomery, along the Interstate 65 corridor. The center is anchored by an Olympic-standard recirculating whitewater course, which allows users of all ages and skill sets to participate at difficulty levels ranging from beginner to expert.

April 15, 2024 Group Watch: AL Takes Top Auto Spot

Alabama has become the nation’s No. 1 auto-exporting state, with international vehicle shipments surging past $11.2 billion in 2023. The numbers put the state over long-time leader South Carolina. Alabama auto exports landed in 78 countries in 2023, with major trading partners Germany, China and Canada being the leading destinations. Overall, Alabama’s exports have been rising in recent years, hitting $27.4 billion in 2023, the second straight year for a record annual total. Since 2020, the value of Alabama’s exports has jumped almost 43 percent.

March 25, 2024 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

Differences between the House and the Senate on exactly how and how much gambling should be legalized in Alabama have put the brakes, at least temporarily, on gambling legislation introduced this session. Right now, the ball is in the House’s court, and representatives there say whether or not to pick up that ball and move it forward is up to the Speaker of the House. Stay tuned.

While gambling’s fate remains unknown, two other “headline” issues have been resolved. The bill banning ballot harvesting was signed into law by Governor Ivey last week. The new law was designed to combat voter fraud. Ivey also signed the bill banning DEI departments in state agencies and public higher education institutions.

Find more details and info on other important #alpolitics news below.

March 25, 2024 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

March 24
The top-secret ‘Ghost Army’ unit, which used inflatable tanks and costumes to fool Nazi Germany in WWII, was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal https://msn.com/en-us/news/world/the-top-secret-ghost-army-unit-which-used-inflatable-tanks-and-costumes-to-fool-nazi-germany-in-wwii-was-awarded-the-congressional-gold-medal/ar-BB1kkjWH?ocid=socialshare#image=BB1iMDY6|1

March 25, 2024 Group Watch: Day-by-Day, Play-by-Play

Tuesday, 16th day: 

  • The House Ways and Means General Fund Committee approved several bills, including bills to further provide for the funds the state sends to counties for the feeding of prisoners, and to provide for parental leave for certain state employees following the birth of a child or the placement of a child for adoption. 
  • The House approved bills to authorize the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to regulate the retail sale of certain tobacco products, including electronic nicotine delivery; to remove the requirement of Domestic and Foreign Corporations to file an annual report with the Secretary of State; to further provide for child-passenger restraint systems; and to provide sales and use tax exemption for certain purchases of diapers, baby supplies, baby formula and feminine hygiene products. 
  • The Senate approved bills to provide for the expungement of records for a person with youthful offender status for a misdemeanor offense; to provide for Occupational Licensing Boards to consider the details of criminal conviction when licensing restricted;  to increase the civil and criminal penalties for employers who violate child labor laws; and to terminate the state retirement benefits for teachers and school employees upon conviction of certain sex crimes involving minors.

Wednesday, a committee day:

  • The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee approved a bill to amend the Alabama Move Over Act and increase the penalties for a violation and to provide criminal penalties under certain circumstances. 
  • The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill to require written consent of a parent or legal guardian for any minor to receive a vaccination. 
  • The House Education Policy Committee approved bills to provide a uniform system of procedural due process protections for students facing suspension or expulsion in K-12 public education and to prohibit classroom instruction related to gender identity or sexual orientation to public K-12 schools. 
  • The House Children and Senior Advocacy Committee approved a Senate-passed bill to further provide prohibitions on the possession of an electronic nicotine delivery system by individuals under 21 years of age. 
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a House-passed bill to provide age-verification requirements for the distribution of sexual material harmful to minors through adult websites and platforms. 
  • The Senate County and Municipal Government Committee approved a bill to prohibit certain entities affiliated with China from entering into public contracts with a public awarding authority.

Thursday, 17th day: 

  • The House passed bills to provide state workers eight weeks paid parental leave; to establish a procedure for funding benefit increases for retired workers and educators; and to eliminate the eligibility to work form regarding child labor. 
  • The Senate approved bills to continue the operations of the State Licensing Board for General Contractors; to continue the operations of the Board of Examiners of Assisted Living Administrators; and continue the operations of the Alabama Board of Electrical Contractors.
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