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

The Alabama Legislature’s 2021 Regular Session began last week, with COVID-19 and education concerns taking center stage. Read on for a quick breakdown of House and Senate activity and see below for more details on the Governor’s plans and priorities for the coming months.
  • Wednesday, February 3 (2nd legislative day and a committee day): The House State Government Committee approved several bills, including bills to allow certain municipalities to levy ad valorem tax for bonds to finance projects and use the proceeds for direct payments to finance capital improvements, and to exclude from competitive bids for local boards of education and governmental entities purchasing agreements to include leases and lease/purchase agreements. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a number of bills, including bills to extend immunity for certain entities from claims relating to contraction or exposure to coronavirus; to require redaction of contract information from court documents released to the public relating to elder persons, and to establish a program to allow medical cannabis for certain conditions. The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee approved a bill to authorize the amounts in a reserve account over $1 million of a solid waste program to be spent by a county or municipality for lawful purposes. The Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee approved a bill to authorize the deployment and installation of small wireless facilities and associated poles, towers and base stations on public rights-of-way.
  • Thursday, February 4 (3rd legislative day): The House passed bills to renew and extend economic development incentives; to further provide for the appropriation of federal funds for the Alabama Rental Assistance Fund to the Department, and to authorize certain municipalities to levy ad valorem tax for bonds to finance projects and use the proceeds for direct payments to finance capital improvements. The Senate passed a number of bills, including bills to provide immunity for certain entities from claims relating to contraction of or exposure to coronavirus; to provide an exemption from sales and use tax for certain entities; to authorize the installation and deployment of small wireless facilities and associated poles, towers and base stations on the right-of-way, and to provide for the determination of cost to include student growth as an allowable allowance for students under the School Foundation Program Fund.
The House and Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, February 9 at 1 PM and 2 PM, respectively.

February 8, 2021 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

Feb. 2
Since Republicans took the Legislature in 2010, Del Marsh has been an honest, inspirational, and fair-minded Senate President Pro Tem. Our thanks to Sen. Marsh for helping reform AL’s government, and we wish our new Pro Tem Greg Reed much success as he leads the upper chamber.

February 8, 2021 Group Watch: Gov Ivey’s “State of the State”

Last week, Governor Kay Ivey gave the annual “state of the state” address from the old House Chamber in the Alabama State Capitol to a virtual and television audience. Her remarks largely focused on helping the state recover from the coronavirus pandemic and on distribution of the vaccine, and she also shared her plan to build multiple prisons. The governor made education and getting students back to the classroom a priority. She is proposing a 2 percent pay raise for state employees and teachers, emphasizing that, “It is the right time to do the right thing.” She praised the legislature for its work to address broadband access and internet connectivity, noting that in the last week, her administration had partnered with C-Spire for its $500 million dollar investment in Alabama over the next three years. The investment will provide broadband to 100,000 homes and businesses in the state, and it is anticipated that this expansion will result in many of the state’s rural citizens and businesses gaining reliable access to broadband and internet services. Governor Ivey also addressed gambling, acknowledging that she has not been an out-front champion of the activity, but stressing that she believes the people of Alabama should have the final say. She said a thoughtful and deliberate debate on the matter in a transparent legislative process is in the best interest of the state.

February 8, 2021 Group Watch: Education A Priority in 2021 Session

Alabama state revenue is solid and safe for the current budget year thanks to conservative budgeting, Rolling Reserve Act safeguards and the growth of online sales tax revenue from the Simplified Sellers Use Tax. The governor announced her proposal for a 2 percent raise for public education employees, which seems to have legislative support. There also seems to be support for STEM incentives and professional development. Education entities support a proposal to offset the financial loss to school systems due to virus-related enrollment loss. The state is moving forward with the new state assessment so that educators have a critical baseline to assess student progress.

February 8, 2021 Group Watch: Session Taking Early Break

After this Thursday, the legislature will push pause for a week. The break will give lawmakers the chance to evaluate how well COVID-19 safety measures in the Senate and House have worked and to assess the status of legislation in progress to set priorities for the coming weeks. Both the Senate and the House will reconvene on Tuesday, February 23.

February 8, 2021 Group Watch: New Pres Pro Tem Sworn In

Last Tuesday, Senator Greg Reed (R-Jasper) was sworn in as the Alabama Senate’s president pro tempore. He was elected to the position — the upper chamber’s highest — by a unanimous vote. Reed has served in the Senate since 2010 and was previously the majority leader in the Senate; a role he held since 2014. He succeeds previous pro tem, Senator Del Marsh (R-Anniston), who announced he will not seek reelection in 2022 and decided to step down from his leadership position for his final two years.

February 8, 2021 Group Watch: New Majority Leader Elected

With Senator Greg Reed elected to the Senate president pro tem position, his previous role of majority leader for the Republicans has been filled by Senator Clay Scofield of Guntersville. He was unanimously elected to the position, and in a statement, Scofield said he’s, “honored to serve as the Republican leader in the Alabama State Senate, and I am thankful for the trust my colleagues have placed in me to lead the Caucus in this new capacity.”

January 2021 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The new year is upon us, and there’s already been a lot of activity. Vaccinations are moving ahead statewide. Preparations are being made and plans and agendas are being formed for the coming 2021 legislative session. And more positive economic development news keeps rolling in. So far, so good, 2021!
  • 2021 Regular Session of the Alabama Legislature Begins Feb 2: The pandemic won’t stop the legislature this year: Representatives and senators will soon reconvene in Montgomery for the 2021 session, thanks to extensive COVID-19 protocols designed to keep legislators and all those involved in session activities safe. Despite some initial thoughts on moving locations, session will take place where it always has, at the State House. But there will be limited public access (and no gallery access), as well as mandatory mask-wearing, temperature scanners and social distancing measures for all meetings and gatherings, though in-person meetings will be limited too. Website and video streaming upgrades are in progress to facilitate more virtual work and virtual accessibility for the public.
  • AL Lawmakers Lay Out Priorities: Things will look different during this year’s legislative session, but the work of our elected representatives will go on. Some lawmakers have already announced their priorities and goals for the session. Gambling is back on the table and will likely draw plenty of debate, while issues like rural broadband access will also be at the top of the list and should enjoy bipartisan support. And COVID-related bills will also be high priority, things like tax protections for stimulus money, liability protection for businesses and additional economic incentives to aid in recovery.
  • COVID-19 Vaccines Being Distributed: Demand for the COVID-19 vaccines remains high in Alabama, and while that demand currently exceeds supply, the state recently opened up vaccines for the next group: individuals over 75 years old and first responders. This group follows frontline healthcare workers and those in nursing homes. The second group can begin receiving vaccines by appointment on January 18. State health officer Dr. Scott Harris also noted that communities are making decisions about moving on to other priority groups at the community level as they feel their reach in prior groups is adequate.

January 2021 Group Watch: Tweet of the Month

Jan 13
Great news for Huntsville and the Redstone Region today as
@usairforce selects to move the U.S. Space Command to Redstone Arsenal. My full statement is below.

January 2021 Group Watch: Gov Ivey Gets Second Vaccine Shot

While it seems clear many Alabamians are ready to get the vaccine, when Governor Ivey got the second dose of her COVID-19 vaccination earlier this week at Baptist Medical Center South in Montgomery, she made a point to encourage all citizens to prepare to receive theirs when they can. She told reporters the shots were painless and that she had no side effects from the first shot she took in December.

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