May 22, 2023 Group Watch: Alabama’s Suicide Hotline Bill Stalls

As suicide rates rise nationwide, a bill to fund the Alabama 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline hit a snag in a House committee. The hotline is not the topic of debate; the issue is the means by which the hotline would be funded. The House bill proposes a 98 cent tax on cellphone lines, and telecommunications companies balked, saying the amount was too high. A similar bill  passed the Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee, and now that version of the legislation may be the one to move forward. Read more here.

May 22, 2023 Group Watch: Back the Blue: State Officials Honor National Police Week

Last week was National Police Week, a to pay tribute to fallen officers, express appreciation for those who serve, raise awareness about the challenges they face, and celebrate remarkable achievements of our everyday law enforcement officers. May 15 was National Peace Officers Memorial Day, and state leaders paid their respects. “Alabama will always respect those who wear the uniform,” Governor Kay Ivey said. On the federal level, Alabama’s U.S. Senate delegation is among the most pro-police in D.C. Senator Katie Britt, Senator Tommy Tuberville and 37 Republican colleagues introduced the Back the Blue Act. The Alabama Legislature has also authorized a slate of pro-police bills this session under the leadership of Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Reed and Speaker of the House Nathaniel Ledbetter.

May 22, 2023 Group Watch: Innovate Alabama Offering Third Round of Grants

Innovate Alabama is continuing its push to help fund small businesses throughout the state of Alabama. The organization announced it will be opening a third round of applications for small businesses seeking funding beginning June 1. Awards can be up to $250,000. The portal to submit applications will close at 5p.m. June 30, and award notifications for the third round begin in early August. The supplemental grant program was launched in 2022 by Innovate Alabama and so far, has given more than $7.6 million in supplemental funding to 44 grant recipients in nine Alabama cities.

May 22, 2023 Group Watch: AL Department of Commerce Names New Senior Project Manager

Gary Walton Jr., a community and economic development professional whose experience includes working on strategic innovation initiatives, has joined the Alabama Department of Commerce’s business development team as senior project manager. Walton joins Alabama’s lead economic development agency as it seeks to build on record levels of inbound investment in 2022 and accelerate the creation of high-paying jobs across the state. As senior project manager, Walton will be involved in a wide range of economic development activities. He will also help develop and implement Commerce’s strategies around life sciences and advanced technology. 

May 15, 2023 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

Now in the second half of the 2023 regular session, the Alabama Legislature is still hard at work, and a bill passed by the House last week moves the body closer to getting a new State House for its future work. The House passed a bill already passed by the Senate the week prior, which allocates property and creates the authority to contract with RSA or another entity to build and maintain the facility. 

School sports scored some news last week. A bill to change certain eligibility rules for high school athletes has been put on hold; after a public hearing on the matter, the Senate Education Policy Committee chairannounced it would not get a committee vote. And Governor Ivey joined the country’s other Republican governors signing a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Education requesting a reversal on recent changes to Title IX rules.

Read more on all this and other trending #alpolitics topics below.

The House and Senate will reconvene on
Tuesday, May 16 at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. respectively.

May 15, 2023 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

May 14

We’ll see you this weekend at the Rhoads House! #Team27 #RollTide

May 15, 2023 Group Watch: Day-by-Day, Play-by-Play

On Tuesday (19th day of regular session): 

  • The House passed bills to increase the amount of tax credits that may be provided in a tax year for rehabilitation of historic properties; to authorize optometrists to administer certain vaccinations in certain circumstances and to establish the board as a certifying board under the Alabama Controlled Substances Act; to prohibit Chinese citizens, the Chinese government or Chinese entities from acquiring real property in the state; and to authorize the Board of Medical Examiners to issue permits for certain medical school graduates to practice medicine in a limited capacity for a limited time as a bridge year graduate. 
  • The Senate passed several bills of local application only before adjournment.

On Wednesday (a committee day):

  • The House Ways and Means General Fund Committee approved bills to provide for the distribution of funding to the Alabama Forestry Commission to support rural economic development; to expand eligibility for educational benefits to spouses of those who were killed while on active state duty or within three years of an injury sustained while on state active duty status; and to revise the circumstances under which the Alabama Medicaid Agency may revise the ceiling for the Medicaid reimbursement rate to nursing facilities during a given fiscal year.
  • The Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee approved bills to establish the Parental Rights in Children’s Education Act relating to K-12 education; to change the terms “failing school” to “priority school” and “qualifying school” and to expand scholarships for eligible students; and to create the School Principal Leadership and Mentoring Act and the Alabama Principal Leadership Development System for K-12 education. 
  • The Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee approved bills to revise the compensation received by retired justices and judges who are called to active duty; to temporarily revise the eligibility and compensation for retirees of either system for participating in either system after retirement; and to increase the compensation for an attorney appointed to serve as guardian ad litem in certain juvenile cases. 
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee approved bills to make it unlawful for certain individuals to require another individual to be implanted with a microchip; and to prohibit a person from placing certain devices on the property of another person. 
  • The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee approved bills to permit PACs to make contributions to political parties in certain circumstances; and to provide for the inspection of certain dams and reservoirs by an engineer and to provide for the Alabama Department of environmental Management to serve as a public repository for dam-related documents. 
  • The Senate Education Policy Committee approved bills to change the designation of a failing school to a lowest sixth percent school and the designation of a non-failing school to a highest 94th percent school and to require the State Board of Education to reflect those changes in terminology when amending or adopting rules; to change the appointment process for the Alabama Public Charter School Commission and to further provide for the commission; and to provide legislative findings and provide a uniform system of procedural due process protections for students facing suspension or expulsion for violating the student code of conduct or state law. 

On Thursday (20th day of of regular session):

  • The House passed bills to provide and adopt the interstate Teacher Mobility Compact to allow licensed teachers to practice among compact states in a limited manner; to create the Students with Unique Needs (SUN) Education Scholarship Act and Program, which allows parents to use funds in an education scholarship account to provide an individualized education program for their children; and to change the appointment process for the Alabama Public Charter School Commission and further provide for the authority and responsibilities of the Commission. 
  • The Senate passed bills to establish procedures for requesting and obtaining public records; to establish certain conditions under which a contractor who performs work on a road, bridge, highway or street shall be granted civil immunity; and to establish the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act and require the State Board of Education to adopt guidelines and training.      

May 15, 2023 Group Watch: House-Passed Bill Advances Plans for New State House

The Alabama House passed a Senate-passed bill concerning the construction of a new State house 88-9 with minor changes. The bill gives control of state-owned property that is now a parking lot behind the State House to the Legislative Council, a panel of 20 legislators. It gives the Legislative Council the authority to contract with the Retirement Systems of Alabama or another entity for construction and maintenance of a new State House. The Retirement Systems has requested proposals from architectural firms to design a State House to replace the one now in use, which was built in 1963 for the State Highway Department. Read more here.

May 15, 2023 Group Watch: House-Passed Bill Expands Optometrists Scope of Practice

For years, optometrists and ophthalmologists have been battling over which procedures optometrists should be allowed to perform in Alabama. A bill passed last week in the House on an 83-6 vote would allow optometrists to do additional procedures. Bill supporters note this is about increasing access to eye healthcare, as there are multiple counties in the state with no ophthalmologist located there. Read more here.

May 15, 2023 Group Watch: Senate Bill Requires Timely Response to Open Records Requests

The Alabama Senate passed a bill to put time requirements in the state’s open records law, which requires state, city and county agencies, as well as school boards, to give people access to government records and documents. Alabama’s open records law says people have the right to view and obtain copies of public records. The law, however, places no requirements on when agencies must respond to request for records. In January, Governor Ivey issued an executive order directing state executive branch agencies to be more responsive to public records requests and setting timelines. The Senate-passed bill would require a public officer who is a custodian of records for an agency to acknowledge receipt of a request for records no more than 10 business days after receiving it. No more than 20 days after a request, the public officer would have to give a response to the request in one or more of several ways:

  • Provide access to the records at an agreed upon time and place.
  • Provide an estimate of production costs.
  • Deny the request in full.
  • Grant the request in part.
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