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!

May 10, 2021 Group Watch: Daylight Savings Here to Stay?

Last week, the legislature passed a bill to make Daylight Savings Time permanent in Alabama, but even if Governor Ivey signs it into law, until Congress makes its decision on the measure, things will remain as they are. Proponents of stopping the twice-yearly time shifts note that staying on DST saves energy and cuts down on crime by making it lighter longer into the evening hours.

May 10, 2021 Group Watch: Regions, ASU Partner to Erase Student Debt

Gifts from donors, including a major donation from Regions bank, helped ASU seniors graduate without school debt. A global pandemic and the accompanying economic fallout have made life tough for a lot of Americans. That is especially true for college students, who have watched their tuition and rent remain mostly unchanged while their hopes of finding employment dwindled. In a surprise ceremony, ASU officials announced that the seniors’ student debt at the school had been cleared, thanks to donations from alumni and a generous $250,000 grant from Regions Bank Foundation. The “Cross the Finish Line” campaign generated more than $16,000 in donations. Combined, the Regions Foundation gift and campaign donations will aid seniors this year and next to clear fees for routine costs associated with attending classes on campus. The students held an average of $2,500 in fees, but some students owed as much as $4,500.

May 10, 2021 Group Watch: Rep. Bill Poole Honored

Yellowhammer Multimedia announced it will present this year’s Power of Service Award to State Rep. Bill Poole. The award will be presented at Yellowhammer’s annual Power of Service event set to take place on May 19 in Montgomery. Poole is being honored for his outstanding service to the state of Alabama. As chair of the House Ways and Means Education Committee, he is in charge of the $7.7 billion education budget for his chamber. Poole is being lauded for his leadership in education across the board — pre-k, k-12, higher education and workforce training initiatives — and his impact on education in Alabama is only matched by his own forward-thinking efforts to advance the state’s innovation and tech ecosystem. Congratulations Chairman Poole for your remarkable service to Alabama!

May 3, 2021 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

Major positive news came last week when the state learned the results of the 2020 Census, namely that Alabama will not lose any Congressional seats, a possibility some feared before the official numbers were all in.

More good news came on the economic and workforce development front, as Alabama was designated a Defense Manufacturing Community by the Department of Defense.

In the legislature, the Education Budget was approved and is now headed to the Governor. The General Fund Budget is likely not far behind.

And speaking of Governor Ivey, she’s been named in a lawsuit concerning the state’s latest prison-construction project.

Find details on all this and more below. And with just a few days left in the session (it’s scheduled to end on May 17 with a week off after this week), things will be busy, so stay tuned to Group Watch!

The House and Senate return on May 4 at 2 pm. Watch live video of both chambers here.

  • Tuesday, April 27 (26th legislative day): The House passed several bills of local application only and general Senate-passed bills to fund public education in the State of Alabama as well as supplemental appropriations to certain agencies and non-state educational institutions. It also gave final approval to other Senate-passed bills to: further provide for the authority of local land banks related to delinquent property taxes; provide for the recovery of public funds by county and municipal authorities for the repair or replacement of private sewer laterals; and to authorize counties and municipalities to use reserves in excess of $1 million for lawful purposes. The Senate passed bills to authorize and regulate water bottle use in public K-12 schools and the Alabama G.I. and Dependents’ Educational Benefit Act for use of scholarships at in-state 2- and 4-year institutions.
  • Wednesday, April 28 (a committee day): The House Ways and Means Education Committee approved Senate-passed bills to create the Education Retirees’ Trust Fund Funding Act to provide for future periodic bonus checks for education retirees and to require the State Department of Education to develop a program to address the mental health of students. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved House-passed bills to: require every judicial circuit to establish a community punishment and corrections program; provide that the Permanent Legislative Committee on Reapportionment intervene in any legal action that contests the validity of the committee; and further provide for the crime of possession of a gambling device. The Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee approved House-passed bills to established the Alabama State Reservoir Management Development Program and provide for matching grants to entities receiving Small Business Innovation Research or Small Business Technology grants.
  • Thursday, April 29 (27th legislative day): The House passed several Senate-passed bills of local application only and general Senate-passed bills to: allow the awarding authority of a competitive bid to negotiate lowest bidder when all bids exceed available funding; further provide for municipal entities to issue summons and complaints in lieu of custodial arrest; and further provide for the authority and duty of pharmacy benefits managers. The Senate passed a number of House-passed bills of local application only and general House-passed bills to further provide for the Math and Science Teacher Education Program aimed at attracting more persons into math, science and computer science as teachers; and for the General Fund budget to provide a cost-of-living salary increase for agencies of state government, and other non-governmental entities receiving specific appropriations.

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