March 25, 2024 Group Watch: Gambling Legislation Stalled

Senator Greg Albritton, a longtime proponent of legalizing gambling, says the gambling package he carried in his chamber remains in the House basket, meaning the chamber has not taken action on changes made by the Senate. The House and Senate are sharply divided over the legislation, particularly over how much gambling each chamber is willing to accept. The House version includes a constitutional amendment authorizing gambling and enabling legislation, enforcement and distribution, as well as a state lottery and casino-style gambling and sports betting at seven locations around the state. Lastly, the enabling bill created a state commission to regulate gambling and allows the governor to negotiate a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. The Senate significantly altered the bills, eliminating sports betting and switching horse-race betting for casino gambling. House leaders say it’s up to the House Speaker to take up the Senate version from the House basket.

March 25, 2024 Group Watch: “Ban” Bills Now Law

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed into law a bill that aims to prevent fraud in absentee voting. The measure’s purpose is to prevent “ballot harvesting,” a term that generally means the mass distribution or collection of absentee ballot applications or ballots. (Opponents say the law criminalizes work that helps the elderly, disabled and incarcerated cast their ballots.) Under the new law, ballot harvesting is a Class C felony, punishable by one to 10 years in prison. The governor also signed into law a bill banning diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) offices, programming and training in public colleges and other state agencies. The new law bans any program that “advocates for a divisive concept.” It would also prohibit higher education institutions from allowing individuals to use a restroom that is different from their sex as assigned at birth.

March 25, 2024 Group Watch: Senators Britt & Tuberville Protect AL Farmers

Senators Katie Britt and Tommy Tuberville are working hard to protect the state’s farm-raised catfish industry, playing a key role in the U.S. Department of Commerce reversing a preliminary decision that would have slashed antidumping duties on imported catfish from companies controlled by the Vietnamese government. Britt called the reversal a victory for American catfish farmers and producers; it defends the nation’s domestic farm-raised catfish markets against unfair dumping practices. Alabama is home to more than 65 farm-raised catfish farms, predominantly across the Black Belt Region, which encompasses approximately 16,000 acres of surface water areas. The catfish industry employs more than 2,400 people and contributes nearly $92 million in economic value to the state.

March 25, 2024 Group Watch: AL Gets Good Workforce Readiness News

According to the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA), the number and percentage of Alabama public high school seniors who are workforce-ready has continued to rise since the pandemic. PARCA analyzed the results of the WorkKeys Assessment, a test given to high school seniors to gauge the skills they will need in the job market. Students can receive either a platinum, gold, silver or bronze Readiness Certificate. A student scoring silver or above has skills for 67 percent of jobs as profiled. This passing percentage marks the highest number achieved since 2019.

March 25, 2024 Group Watch: Legislature Sends “Scout’s Honor” Bill to Governor

With a unanimous (100-0) vote, the Alabama House of Representatives gave final approval to a Senate-passed bill that would allow Alabamians who suffered sexual abuse while in the Boy Scouts of America to press claims against the organization by lifting the state’s statute of limitations for civil claims on sexual abuse. Once signed into law, Alabama victims of abuse can file claims with the The Scouting Settlement Trust, a $2.7 billion fund established after the Boy Scouts filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in 2020 amid several lawsuits. The trust allows victims of sexual abuse to claim between $3,500 and $2.7 million. The provisions of the bill expire on December 31, 2026.

March 11, 2024 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

A recent Alabama Supreme Court ruling that was negatively impacting access to IVF services in the state resulted in an uproar around Alabama (and the country) and made multiple national news broadcasts and headlines. Last week, Governor Ivey signed into law legislation to protect IVF in the state; the bill enjoyed almost unanimous support in the legislature.

Governor Ivey also signed the school choice bill, making Alabama one of 15 states offering parents and students expanded educational options.

And deja vu: Gambling is on a rocky road (again). The Senate passed gambling legislation, but the two-bill package is vastly different from the gambling bill passed earlier by the House. The ball is now in the House’s court; the next few weeks will tell if the issue of legalized gambling will, yet again, fail to make it to the ballot for a people’s vote.

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

March 11, 2024 Group Watch: Day-by-Day, Play-by-Play

Tuesday, 13th day: 

  • The Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee approved a House-passed bill entitled the CHOOSE Act to establish a refundable income tax credit to offset the cost of qualifying educational expenses. 
  • The Senate Tourism Committee approved two House-passed bills relating to gaming, with changes. The bills provide for a vote of the people in September 2024 to decide if they want legalized gambling and to create an administration structure to oversee and mange legalized gambling. 
  • The Senate approved bills to further provide for the Distressed Institutions of Higher Education Revolving Loan Program; and prohibit occupational licensing boards from taking adverse action with respect to off-label medical treatment when a patient has given informed consent. 

Wednesday, 14th day and a committee day:

  • The House Health Committee approved a bill to prohibit the manufacture, sale, or distribution of food products made from cultured animal cells in the state.
  • The House Ways and Means Education Committee approved a bill to provide for a sales and use tax exemption for certain infant supplies, maternity clothing and feminine hygiene products.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee approved bills to require an occupational licensing board to determine whether an individual’s criminal conviction disqualifies him or her from obtaining an occupational license in certain circumstances; to increase civil and criminal penalties for an employer who violates child labor laws; and to further provide for the penalties of human trafficking under certain conditions.  
  • The Senate County and Municipal Government Committee approved a House-passed bill to prohibit a supervisor from retaliating against a county or municipal employee who reports certain violations. 
  • The House gave final passage to a  bill that originated in the Senate to provide civil and criminal immunity to providers and patients receiving in vitro fertilization services. 
  • The Senate gave final passage to a bill originating in the House also known as the CHOOSE Act, which establishes education savings account for parents of children to use in providing education services for their children. 

Thursday, 15th day: 

  • The House passed a number of bills, including final passage of Senate-passed bills to require the posting of curricula on school websites and authorizing parents and legal guardians to review the materials; prohibit assistance in preparation of absentee ballots; and to place significant restrictions on the promotion of diversity, equity, and inclusion among publicly funded programs. 
  • The Senate passed two House-passed measures with amendments relating to gambling in the state and the establishment of an Alabama Gaming Commission to administer the process.

March 11, 2024 Group Watch: Gambling Legislation Changed, but Passed

After the Senate Tourism Committee approved a scaled-back version of gambling legislation earlier in the week, the full Senate passed a two-bill proposal for a lottery and state-regulated gambling on Thursday, after about eight hours of debate. The vote was 22-11 on the first bill, a proposed constitutional amendment, which requires 21 votes. The Senate’s version dramatically changed the legislation approved by the Alabama House a couple of weeks ago, which would have included sports betting and up to seven new casinos, along with a lottery. The Senate-passed plan would allow pari-mutuel betting on horse racing and dog racing, simulcast races and computerized historical horse racing machines at seven locations. The pari-mutuel betting would be at the state’s four former greyhound tracks in Birmingham, Mobile, Greene County and Macon County, at what are now bingo halls in Houston and Lowndes Counties, and one additional site in Greene County. The facilities could not offer casino games or electronic bingo. The plan also calls for the Governor to negotiate a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians that would allow the tribe to offer the full range of casino games at facilities in Atmore, Wetumpka and Montgomery, facilities that now offer electronic bingo. The new version changes when voters would decide on the constitutional amendment needed to approve the package, too, moving the vote to a special election on September 10 instead of the general election in November. The legislation now returns to the House, which can accept the changes, or, most likely, send it to conference committee to reach an agreement on a final version. 

March 11, 2024 Group Watch: School Choice Bill Signed into Law, Expanding AL Educational Freedom

Governor Kay Ivey’s signature on school choice legislation (penned last Thursday morning) has placed Alabama at the forefront of states in expanding educational freedom in 2024. The law authorized the creation of Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), and puts Alabama in the company of 14 other states that offer comprehensive choice programs. The new Alabama law creates $7,000 ESAs for eligible students to use toward education expenses beginning in the 2025-26 school year. It will be available to all students by 2027-28 school year. Eligible students must be between ages 5 and 19 or up to 21 for students with disabilities and have not graduated from high school.

March 11, 2024 Group Watch: AL Lawmakers & Governor Protect IVF in State

Governor Ivey signed into law the bill to protect Alabama IVF services after Alabama lawmakers gave final passage last Wednesday night to a bill that gives legal protection to in vitro fertilization clinics. The legislation came in response to a state Supreme Court ruling that resulted in a pause of services. Lawmakers scrambled to provide immunity that would allow clinics to resume services after the court ruled that frozen embryos held in storage have the legal status of children for purposes of civil liability under Alabama’s wrongful death of a minor law. The House and Senate passed similar, but not identical, bills on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, the Senate concurred with a House-passed bill by a vote of 29-1. The University of Alabama at Birmingham Health System, which had paused IVF services, issued a statement Wednesday saying they would resume. UAB expressed appreciation to the Legislature and Governor Ivey for swiftly passing and signing legislation that provides some protections and will allow UAB to resume in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments.

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