May 20, 2021 Group Watch: Special Session or Sessions Looking Likely

Many are predicting at least one and maybe two special sessions coming later this year, maybe in August. Topics including prison construction, redistricting and the distribution of the federal funds coming Alabama’s way as part of the recently passed American Rescue Plan Act will require attention before the 2022 regular session. Read more here.

May 20, 2021 Group Watch: Medical Marijuana Legal in Alabama

Governor Kay Ivey has signed into law a bill that will allow Alabamians to use medical marijuana products for more than a dozen conditions and symptoms such as chronic pain, depression, seizures, muscle spasticity and terminal illnesses. The bill sets up a system to regulate medical marijuana from the cultivation of the plants, to processing and testing the products, to selling them in dispensaries. Doctors will be able to recommend medical cannabis for patients who will receive medical cannabis cards to buy tablets, gel cubes and other forms of medical cannabis products. Raw plant material, products that could be smoked or vaped and food products such as cookies or candies will not be allowed. Alabama becomes the 37th state to legalize medical marijuana.

May 20, 2021 Group Watch: Ivey Ending Extra Unemployment Benefits; Biz Owners Relieved

On June 19, Alabama is pulling the plug on federal boosts to unemployment, including the extra $300 a week for those collecting benefits. In parts of the state, “Now Hiring” signs aren’t hard to find, which is one of the reasons Ivey announced she is putting a stop to the additional unemployment. The pandemic unemployment programs mean people in Alabama have been getting up to $575 a week in unemployment for up to 54 weeks due to the pandemic as opposed to the standard benefits capping out at $275 a week for 14 weeks. The Alabama Department of Labor has paid out more than $5 billion in claims in the last year, which is more money than the last 12 years combined with the help of federal dollars. The Alabama Department of Labor will continue paying out the additional $300 a week for new claims filed before June 19. The state’s unemployment rate is 3.8 percent, the lowest in the Southeast.

May 20, 2021 Group Watch: Elements of Alabama Literacy Act Delayed

Thanks to to learning losses sustained due to the pandemic, Alabama lawmakers voted to delay for two years a provision in the Alabama Literacy Act, a law passed in 2019 to emphasize reading instruction in the earliest grades. The law says that beginning with the 2021-2022 school year, third graders would have to show they can read at grade level in order to be promoted to fourth grade. The House gave final passage of a Senate-passed bill to delay that time provision until the 2023-2024 school years. The bill passed by a vote of 68-27, and now goes to the governor who could sign it into law.

May 20, 2021 Group Watch: “Big” Bills That Failed to Advance

Alabama lawmakers finished their annual session without taking a vote on a bill to criminalize hormone treatments and surgeries as transitional therapies for minors with gender dysphoria. It was one of the most closely watched bills throughout the 15-week legislative session. A bill to allow voters to decide whether to allow a lottery and casinos failed to surface on the last night of the session. This matter is far from over and is likely to resurface in a future session. There are likely to be special sessions later this year, and the 2022 regular session starts in January.

May 10, 2021 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

With the session drawing to its close, two of this year’s headline-garnering bills are facing opposite fates.

The medical marijuana bill passed the legislature last Thursday. If Governor Ivey signs it, it the use of marijuana to treat multiple medical conditions will be legal in Alabama.

However, the gambling bill stalled, and it now looks likely that it will end up on the list of bills that died in the regular session. During debate in the House, tensions were high, and many were playing the blame game.

After a busy week, the legislature has taken this week off and returns for the final day of the regular session on Monday, May 17.

Read more on all this and other last-minute legislative activity below.

The House and Senate return on May 17 at 10 am and 11 am respectively.
Watch live video of both chambers here.

  • Tuesday, May 4 (28th legislative day): The House Education Policy Committee approved a Senate-passed bill to postpone the third-grade retention requirement until the 2024-2025 school year. The House Ways and Means Education, the House State Government, and the House Economic Development and Tourism Committees approved three bills relating to creating a state lottery, to regulate gaming and the extent to which operators could make campaign contributions. Four hours, the full House debated a bill that would allow some form of medical cannabis to be used by certain individuals under certain circumstances but took no vote on the matter. The Senate approved House-passed bills to: require mental health awareness to be included in the annual training session for employees of each K-12 school; provide for an education assistance program for the children of service persons; provide for the broadcast of public K-12 school sporting events; establish learning opportunities outside of typical public K-12 classrooms for credit; and establish the Alabama Innovation Corporation to advance research and technology for small businesses.
  • Wednesday, May 5 (a committee day): There were four bills of local application only approved by the House Committee on Local Legislation relating to Bullock, Blount, Cullman, and Limestone counties. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved House-passed bills to establish the Alabama Non-Disparagement Obligations Act and further provide penalties for persons selling and distributing a controlled substance that results in a death.
  • Thursday, May 6 (29th legislative day): The House approved Senate-passed bills to establish a program to allow the use of medical cannabis for certain conditions, and to adopt Daylight Savings Time statewide if Congress amends federal law to allow it. The House also approved Senate-passed bills of local application only. The Senate approved House-passed bills to establish the Seizure Safe Schools Act and a bill to authorize local boards of education to offer yoga as an elective in grades K-12. They also approved House-passed bills of local application only.

May 10, 2021 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

May 9
My mom was a trailblazer. She was a mother, wife, & homemaker. She rose from being a teller to VP & cashier at Camden National Bank. She taught me the importance of strong character & of paying attention to details as I addressed big goals. I miss her dearly. Happy #MothersDay!

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.

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