April 12, 2021 Group Watch: COVID-19 Cases & Hospitalizations Down in AL

Alabama’s coronavirus number have shown incredible improvement from their dangerous highs in early January, and the state is hitting some important pandemic safety benchmarks for the first time. The state has averaged 196 new cases each day for the last week, down 94 percent from the average of 3,080 new cases per day on the week ending January 11. Alabama’s hospitals had 317 coronavirus patients as of last Thursday, down roughly 90 percent from the capacity-threatening peak of 3,084 on January 11. The state’s new case numbers have continued to fall in recent weeks, even as a number of states in the Northeast and Sun Belt regions of the country have seen upticks. Governor Ivey said of the pandemic, “Thank the good lord we’re in the home stretch.”

April 12, 2021 Group Watch: Lifting of School Yoga Ban Advances in Senate

The Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee has assumed a new yoga position. Members of the committee voted 5-1 for a bill lifting Alabama’s ban on ypga classes in public schools. The Alabama State Board of Education banned yoga, hypnotic states, guided imagery and meditation from K-12 public schools in 1993 amid a moral panic stoked by some groups, who alleged that hypnosis and meditation were being used in public schools. The House approved the bill 73-25 last month.

April 12, 2021 Group Watch: Medical Marijuana Bill Moving Through the Legislature

Gaining approval from the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday puts a bill that would allow the sale and use of medical marijuana in Alabama one step closer to the governor’s desk. The bill specifies more than a dozen medical conditions eligible for access to medical marijuana but does require a doctor’s approval first. It’s headed to an additional House committee this week.

April 5, 2021 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The Alabama Legislature completed its seventh week of the 2021 regular session last Thursday.

Highlights at the State House included the House approval of a bill that allows direct delivery of alcohol and the shipment of wine to households, plus a pause on legislation that aims to restructure the Alabama Department of Public Health and the position of State Health Officer.

Governor Ivey spent time last week visiting areas in the state ravaged by tornadoes and severe storms.

Read on for a breakdown of daily activity and to find more details on the issues making news.

The House and Senate return on April 6 at 1 and 2:30 pm respectively.

  • Tuesday, March 30 (17th legislative day): The House passed several bills of local application only and general bills to: prohibit discrimination against disabled persons being the recipient of organ transplants; further provide for the Residential Mortgage Satisfaction Act; raise the age to buy, possess or use nicotine products to 21, and impose restrictions on marketing of certain nicotine products; and revise the timeframe for applying to vote absentee. They also gave final approval of Senate-passed bills to: exempt from sales and use tax the TWG 2021 Birmingham Foundation and to further provide for timeframes for run-off elections for municipalities. The Senate passed a bill to suspend tobacco permits in cases of failure by retailers to pay distributors.
  • Wednesday, March 31 (a committee day): The House Health Committee approved a bill to require healthcare facilities to allow one caregiver or visitor to patients or residents, subject to reasonable restrictions. The House Ways and Means Education Committee approved Senate-passed bills to: allow airport authorities to receive sales and use tax exemption and grant sovereign immunity to the School of Cyber Technology and Engineering. The House Judiciary Committee approved bills to: expand the expungement of criminal records to include convictions of certain misdemeanor and felony offenses and to increase the filing fee for expungements; create a database to maintain law enforcement information providing civil protections, providing for background checks and pre-employment checks; and establish the Alabama Court Cost Commission. The Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee approved a bill to establish a uniform pay plan for judges. The Senate Education Policy Committee approved a bill to further define the physical location of a public charter school under the Alabama School Choice and Student Opportunity Act. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill to create the Alabama Public Records Act, a method of request for public records and the manner of appeal.
  • Thursday, April 1 (18th legislative day): The House passed a number of bills of local application only and general bills to: provide for the broadcast of public K-12 school sporting events; provide for the creation of the Math and Science Teacher Education Program; and establish the Extended Learning Opportunities Act for learning opportunities outside of the typical public K-12 classroom for credit. They also gave final approval to Senate-passed bills to: revise the licensure requirements for pharmacists and authorizing the Board of Pharmacy to set continuing education requirements; and further provide for and define the School Foundation Program Fund. The Senate passed bills to: provide for the standardized issuance and information management for concealed carry permits in the Alabama State Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA); update references to the federal motor carrier safety regulation; to further provide for the responsibility of the State Health Officer in response to an outbreak of disease; and to authorize business and religious entities to continue operation under certain conditions during an emergency.

April 5, 2021 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

@PronceyHouse7

March 31
Respect…

f9562b35-cfa0-44fb-8f09-03af89d32316

April 5, 2021 Group Watch: Consideration of Changes to ADPH, State Health Officer Pushed to 2022

In February, State Senator Jim McClendon introduced legislation that would reconstitute the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) and remake the agency’s leadership. McClendon, the chair of the Senate Health Committee, proposed abolishing the State Board of Health and the State Health Officer. The bill would create a Secretary of the Alabama Department of Public Health, appointed by the governor. House Health Committee Chair Rep. Paul Lee is also considering options to deal with the agency and the role of the State Health Officer. Lee does not think a fair assessment of the agency can be made under the current circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lee prefers to wait until the 2022 legislative session to consider changes to the state government executive branch’s role in public health.

April 5, 2021 Group Watch: April Weaver Wins Senate Special Election Primary

April Weaver, a former state representative and ex-Trump administration official, handily won the special election Republican primary for a central Alabama Senate seat over two other contenders. Weaver, who left the legislature in May 2020 to become Regional Director for region IV of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the Trump administration, won the special election with 82 percent of the vote. Weaver defeated Republicans Donna Strong, who received 11 percent of the vote, and Joseph Barlow, who received 7 percent of the vote.

April 5, 2021 Group Watch: Gov. Ivey Visits Alabama Sites Hit by Deadly Tornadoes

Governor Kay Ivey toured sites in Alabama where tornadoes upended homes and lives, killing five and laying a path of destruction across the state. Ivey conveyed the grief all Alabamians share for the families and their losses, and that their hearts and prayers go out to all who lost loved ones. Ivey toured sites in Calhoun, Shelby, and Hale counties. Governor said state officials are still gathering a tally of damages to seek federal assistance and emphasized the importance for those who suffered damage to reach out to local authorities and report damage.

April 5, 2021 Group Watch: Ainsworth Won’t Run for Governor Against Ivey

On Friday, Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth said he will not run for governor if Governor Kay Ivey decides to seek another term. Ivey said she’s not yet made a decision about running, noting her “plate is full” with COVID-19 vaccine distribution, prison reform and other issues facing the state. If Ivey does run again, Ainsworth said he will seek a second term as Lt. Governor. Read more here.

April 5, 2021 Group Watch: Alabama House Approves Alcohol Delivery & Wine Shipment Bills

The Alabama House approved a bill that would allow delivery of beer, wine and liquor to individuals on a 79-12 vote. The chamber approved a second bill to allow direct shipment of wine to Alabama residents on an 83-7 vote. The alcohol delivery bill goes to the Senate, which approved it on February 11, for concurrence or a conference committee, as the House made changes its language to make it clear that brewpubs, distilleries and winemakers are included. The wine shipment bill also goes to the Senate for committee and a vote. Deliveries would be limited to people 21 and older, and payments would be processed before delivery could take place. Those seeking an alcohol delivery license would have to pay a $100 application fee and a license fee of $250.

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