March 8, 2021 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

Last week — the fourth of the 2021 regular session — saw debates around gay and transgender issues as well as the FY22 General Fund Budget approved by committee (meaning the House is like to take it up this week) and the passage of multiple board, agency and commission continuation bills. Here’s a rundown of other action.
  • Tuesday, March 2 (10th legislative day): The House passed several bills of local application only, and general bills to; authorize certain entities to continue to operate during states of emergencies under certain conditions and to take certain anti-gay language from sex education standards. The Senate passed several measures, including bills to; require the sale of land for taxes be conducted on the premises of or within the courthouse or courthouse annex and to prohibit minors from getting medications or treatments to change their gender.
  • Wednesday, March 3 (11th legislative day and a committee day): The House Ways and Means General Fund Committee approved several funding measures including the FY22 General Fund budget; The Children First Trust; the FY 22 appropriation for Domestic Violence Centers; and a 2-percent pay increase for state workers. The House Ways and Means Education Committee approved several bills, including a measure to exempt the School of Fine Arts Foundation, the School of Math and Science Foundation and the School of Cyber Technology and Engineering Foundation from sales and use tax. The full House considered and passed one measure; to authorize a tax credit for the cost of acquisition and construction of a qualified storm shelter. They paid homage to those affected or killed two years ago during deadly tornadoes in Lee County and surrounding areas. The Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee approved a number of House passed bills to continue the operation of boards, agencies and commissions. The Senate Education Policy Committeeapproved bills to: to postpone the third-grade retention requirement until the 2024-2025 school year and to further provide for procedural due process protection for suspensions and expulsions in K-12. The Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee approved a bill to provide a one-time lump-sum payment to retired state workers. This measure is being pushed by ARSEA-APEAL who represents state and local government retirees. The Senate passed bills to: authorize the Secretary of State to conduct a one-time post-election audit of the vote count; further provide for the expungement of records to include youthful offenders; and create the Alabama Digital Finance Authority, the Statewide Connectivity Plan, and the Alabama University Research Alliance.
  • Thursday, March 4 (12th legislative day): The House Agriculture and Forestry Committee approved HB460 relating to commercial motor vehicles and compliance with federal motor carrier safety regulations. The House passed several Senate passed measures to: authorize the State Board of Education to issue alternative teaching certificates to qualified former members of the Armed Forces; and establish the Psychological Interjurisdictional Compact to allow licensed psychologist to practice on a limited basis among compact member states. The House also passed a measure to allow honorably discharged veterans to acquire pistol permits without charge. The Senate gave final approval to twenty-six House passed bills to continue specific boards, agencies, and commissions. They also approved a bill to further provide for certain municipalities to revise time frames for local elections and runoffs.
The House and Senate reconvene on Tuesday, March 9 at 1 PM and 2 PM, respectively.

March 8, 2021 Group Watch: House Approves Bill to Remove Anti-Gay Language

The Alabama House passed a bill that deletes from state law a requirement that sex education courses in public schools include condemnation of homosexuality. The bill by Rep. Laura Hall of Huntsville amends the state law that sets minimum requirements for sex education courses. This measure had bipartisan support and passed 69-30. The legislation retains a requirement that courses must teach that abstinence is the only completely effective way to prevent unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

March 8, 2021 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

March 4
With this legislation, AL has shown the Pentagon that we value the military bases and await future expansion and investment. I appreciate the Senate Pro Tem @SenatorGregReed, Speaker of the House @MacMcCutcheon1, and each sponsor for making the military a priority in Alabama.

March 8, 2021 Group Watch: Mask Mandate Extended

Governor Kay Ivey extended Alabama’s COVID-19 health order through April 9, adding that the included mask mandate will be allowed to expire at that time. Ivey speaking during a press conference with State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, said her decision to keep the mask mandate in place was so businesses have ample time to implement policies of their own and to make adjustments they would like ahead of April 9. The updated health order will allow hospitals and nursing homes to allow up to two visits from caregivers; programs such as senior service centers may resume congregate meals; restaurants and bars will have no limit on party size tables, but will retain social distancing between tables; and summer camps will re-open with social distance and sanitation standards.

March 8, 2021 Group Watch: AL Senate Passes Bill Banning Transgender Treatment for Minors

The Alabama Senate passed a bill aimed at preventing minors getting medications or treatments to change genders. The Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act passed 23-4. The bill makes it a felony for doctors to treat transgender minors with hormonal therapy, puberty blockers or surgery to help their transition. Supporters of the bill said minors are not ready to make decisions like these at a young age. Senator Shay Shelnutt of Trussville said his bill is about protecting the health and well-being of Alabama’s children. Opponents say the decision should be between parents, the minor and a doctor. Dozens protested outside the statehouse speaking out against the bill

March 8, 2021 Group Watch: Hatcher Wins AL Senate District 26

Rep. Kirk Hatcher, a Democrat, won a special election for Alabama’s District 26 Senate seat. Hatcher defeated Republican William Greene with 78 percent of the vote. Hatcher says his focuses will be education, economic development and reducing crime. Congratulations Senator Hatcher!

March 8, 2021 Group Watch: Military Friendly Package Heads to Gov. Ivey

The legislature has taken a step toward making the state more friendly to military members and their families. A package of bills passed in the House last week will now go to Governor Ivey to be signed into laws. Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, chair of the state’s Military Stability Commission, noted how important Alabama’s federal military bases are to local economies and the state’s economy and said the bills show that the state values current bases and is “ready for even more expansion and investment.” See Ainsworth’s tweet above and read more here.

March 8, 2021 Group Watch: Vote on Lottery & Casino Bill This Week

Despite some detail tweaks still in progress, a vote on gambling in Alabama is coming this week, according to Senator Del Marsh (R-Anniston) who is sponsoring a bill that would allow a lottery and up to 10 casino locations in the state. If the bill passes both the Senate and House, it will appear on the ballot, letting the people of Alabama cast their vote and make the ultimate decision on the issue. Read more here.

March 8, 2021 Group Watch: AL Could Reach Herd Immunity in May

An epidemiologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham projected that the country, and Alabama, could reach herd immunity to COVID-19 as early as May or June. Dr. Suzanne Judd said her calculations are based on the current pace of delivering COVID-19 vaccines and a recent study from Columbia University that estimated more than a third of the U.S. population may have already been infected with the virus by the end of January. Herd immunity occurs when the virus cannot spread through a population uncontrolled because enough members of the population have some kind of immunity, either from a vaccine or from antibodies if they had the disease and recovered. There is a strong belief that a large but unknown number of people who got the virus were never tested. Judd says that although there is no magical number for herd immunity, her calculations are based on a threshold of getting immunity in 72 percent of the population.

March 8, 2021 Group Watch: Broadband Expansion Passes Senate

A bill to create the Alabama Digital Expansion Authority made it through the Senate last week without a single “nay” vote. The Authority that SB215 establishes will help ensure all parts of Alabama, including currently underserved (mostly rural) areas, have access to high-speed internet. Proponents point to high-speed internet as an essential element of increased economic development. The Authority will also be charged with determining the most cost-effective way to expand access. Read the bill’s full text here.

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