February 24, 2020 Group Watch: Blue Origin Opens AL Rocket Facility

Last week, Blue Origin opened a sprawling factory in Alabama’s “Rocket City” that will allow the spaceflight company to accelerate production of its heavy-lift BE-4 rocket engine and create hundreds of jobs. The BE-4, which is under development, will power Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket as well as the United Launch Alliance’s new Vulcan rocket, which is being produced at ULA’s factory in nearby Decatur. The company’s 350,0000-square-foot facility, located in Cummings Research Park. will employ more than 300 people with another 200 jobs over the next year.

February 24, 2020 Group Watch: Senate Committee Approves Medical Marijuana Bill

Last week, a medical marijuana bill cleared its first hurdle in the  legislature when the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill by a vote of 8-1 (with one member abstaining). The bill by Republican Senator Tim Melson would allow people to be prescribed medical marijuana for 15 conditions including cancer, anxiety and chronic pain. They could purchase cannabis products at a licensed dispensary. The bill would allow marijuana in forms such as pills, gelatinous cubes, oils, skin patches, gels and creams. It would prohibit products consumed by smoking or vaping. The proposal now moves to the Senate.

February 24, 2020 Group Watch: Landfill Bill Makes Progress

A bill that clarifies which materials (other than dirt) can be used as “alternative cover” at landfill sites and also spells out how the Alabama Department of Environmental Management will decide what is and isn’t allowed unanimously passed the House last Thursday, despite early opposition from some Democrats.

February 24, 2020 Group Watch: Listen Up

Want to listen to an update of all the activity in the legislature last week? Check out this episode of the Legislation Matters podcast, here.

February 17, 2020 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

In the second week of session, lots of local application only bills moved through committees and both chambers. A bill to create a statewide emergency notification system was approved by the Senate, and a bill to prohibit new municipal occupational taxes was passed in the House. Here are details:

  • Tuesday, February 11 (3rd day of session): The House Ways and Means General Fund Committee met and approved several bills, among which were bills to provide for supplemental appropriation to several self- perpetuating boards, to repeal the requirement that the Onsite Wastewater Board transfer unencumbered funds to the State General Fund and to authorize cities and counties to form development authorities for property adjacent to U.S. Air Force Bases. The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee met and approved several bills including those to authorize municipalities to establish entertainment districts within their territorial limits and to allow class-8 municipalities alternative procedures to declare a public nuisance after prior abatement weeds. The House approved two bills of local application only relating to Talladega County and a general bill to prohibit municipal occupational taxes if not already in effect unless authorized by local law. The Senate approved general bills to add a consumer member appointed by the governor to the State Board of Respiratory Therapy, to add a nonresident member to the University of Montevallo board of trustees and to require reduced speed school zones in a municipality.
  • Wednesday, February 12  (committee day): Only a few bills were considered in House committees, as House members traveled to North Alabama to attend the funeral of a spouse of a fellow member. The House County and Municipal Government Committee approved bills to limit the power of mayors to grant pardons in cases of domestic violence and to further provide for the definition of landfill relating to solid waste disposal. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved bills to create a Sexual Assault Task Force and to further provide for the rights of victims, to require use of electronic monitoring for release on bail for persons charged with certain violent offenses and to further provide for the crime of shoplifting. The Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee approved bills to further provide for the definition of landfill relating to solid waste disposal, to establish a General Fund Budget Reserve Fund and to require Class 1-5 municipalities to adopt a municipal plan as a condition for receiving grants from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.
  • Thursday, February 13 (4th day of session): The House passed bills of local application only and general bills to exempt County Boards of Education from the competitive law for certain leases of goods or services, to add law enforcement officers to the protected class for hate crimes and to require properties annexed with overlapping police jurisdictions to have the consent of all affected municipalities. The Senate approved bills to create a Statewide Emergency Notification System, to authorize municipalities to establish entertainment within jurisdictional limits and to include missing and endangered persons suffering from a mental or physical disability in the Missing and Endangered Person law.

February 17, 2020 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

Feb 16

I found out recently our friend Rep. John Rogers wife passed away a few weeks ago. Our belated thoughts and prayers are with John.

February 17, 2020 Group Watch: Vote on Medical Marijuana Bill

Republican Senator Tim Melson’s bill to make medical marijuana legal in Alabama has been introduced and will be heard in the Senate Judiciary committee on Wednesday. The bill would make marijuana legal to treat 15 conditions, including cancer and chronic pain, but it would only be available in the form of pills or creams, not for smoking or vaping or in edibles. Melson said he expects opposition (including from AL Attorney General Steve Marshall) but believes there are many in Alabama who could benefit from the use of medical marijuana.

February 17, 2020 Group Watch: Bills in Trouble

For all the bills that pass to become law, many more never make it, and some hit the wall pretty early in the session. Such is the fate of several bills introduced this year. A bill to make repaying payday loans easier by mandating more time (from as little as 10 days to 30 days) was voted down in committee in the Senate. A bill requiring transgender athletes in high school to compete based on their birth biological sex died in a House committee. And a bill proposing that police officers be added to the state’s hate crime law sailed through the House but was carried over by a Senate committee, so its future is unclear.

February 17, 2020 Group Watch: Genital Mutilation Bill Passes House

Last week, the House passed HB53, sponsored by Rep. Laura Hall (D-Huntsville). The bill, which now heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee, outlaws female genital mutilation and provides criminal penalties for the offense. While it may surprise some, female genital mutilation is practiced in Western countries, including the United States, in diaspora communities. This bill will help protect young women in Alabama from the physical and mental trauma the practice causes.

February 17, 2020 Group Watch: AL Judge confirmed to U.S. Court of Appeals

The United States Senate confirmed Judge Andrew Brasher of Alabama as the next judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. Senator Richard Shelby voted for his confirmation, and Senator Doug Jones voted against it. Brasher, currently a federal judge on the U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Alabama, was nominated in November and his nomination officially sent to the Senate January 2020. Prior to his appointment to e bench, Judge Brasher served as Solicitor General for Alabama.

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