May 3, 2021 Group Watch: Alabama Among Six Locations Nationwide Chosen as Defense Manufacturing Community

Alabama has been chosen as one of six locations in the United States designated a Defense Manufacturing Community as a result of collaboration among the Department of Defense (DoD), Redstone Arsenal and the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH). UAH has been awarded a $3.7 million DoD grant under the Defense Manufacturing Community Support Program. The university is serving as the lead to focus on the visibility, workforce training and adoption of advanced manufacturing technologies in the region with an emphasis on the modernization of U.S. Army aviation and missile systems. This award follows a competitive selection process culminating in the under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment’s designation of the six Defense Manufacturing Communities (DMC).

May 3, 2021 Group Watch: Lawsuit Filed to Stop State’s Mega-Prison Plans

A lawsuit was filed in Montgomery County Circuit Court seeking to stop the progress on the state’s mega-prison construction plan that carries a $3 billion dollar price tag. Governor Kay Ivey and Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn are named as defendants in the case. Ivey signed two contracts with CoreCivic in February to build mega-prisons in Elmore and Escambia counties. With these 30-year contracts, the prisons will be operated by the Alabama Department of Corrections and maintained by CoreCivic throughout the duration of the lease. The plaintiffs in the case, state auditor Jim Zeigler, Representative John Rogers, Elmore County property owner Leslie Ognburn and pastor Kenny Glasgow believe the lease agreements violate state law and ADOC regulations. The lawsuit asks the judge to issue a declaratory judgement on the issue, specifically whether the governor can incur debt for the state. The plaintiffs ultimately ask the judge to void the lease agreements with CoreCivic. The plaintiffs also seek temporary and permanent injunctive relief to suspend the lease agreements.

May 3, 2021 Group Watch: AL House Passes $7.7 Billion Education Budget

Public education in Alabama will receive its largest ever amount of state dollars in the annual budget passed by the House of Representatives last week. The budget for the 2022 fiscal year, which starts October 1, appropriates $7.7 billion from the Education Trust Fund. The budget funds a 2-percent raise for teachers and education employees in public schools and community colleges. The budget also includes $100 million in funding for a new program to boost pay for math and science teachers in an attempt to remedy the current shortage of qualified teachers in those subjects in grades 6-12. K-12 received an increase of more than $207 million; the Alabama Community College System received an extra $47 million; and Pre-K received an additional $24 million. The Senate concurred with the House changes, and the measure now goes to the governor, who is likely to sign the bill since it substantially mirrors the budget she submitted at the start of the session.

May 3, 2021 Group Watch: General Fund Budget Approved by the Senate

The Alabama Senate approved a House-passed General Fund Budget with minor changes. The $2.4 billion budget represents a 3.6-percent increase year-over-year. Most agencies saw small increases or level funding. The largest increase was a more than doubling of the budget for the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles, who will see its budget go from $27.8 million to $58.7 million. Most of that funding aims to restore funding cut last year, after legislators learned the bureau had $21 million in rollover money available. The Alabama Medicaid agency will see its state allocation drop from $820 million to $769 million. Increased federal funding and carryover money meant the agency would require a smaller amount of state funding this year. The Department of Corrections will get a $26.4 million increase over the current year’s budget. The Department of Mental Health will get an increase of $11.2 million. The budget bill’s  2-percent pay raise for state employees would go into effect October 1.

May 3, 2021 Group Watch: AL Will Not Lose Congressional Seat

Alabama was projected as a state likely to lose a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, but results from the 2020 Census show Alabama’s population count was high enough to prevent that from happening. Alabama’s population count of 5,030,053 was more than 108,000 higher than a previous U.S. Census Bureau estimate in January. Census results were to be released months ago but were delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and a decision by the Trump administration to shorten the timelines for gathering Census responses.

May 3, 2021 Group Watch: Gov Ivey Signs Expungement and Law Enforcement Officer Database Bills

Governor Kay Ivey signed bills that broaden the offenses eligible for expungement and create a database to track the movement of police officers. The expungement bill will allow individuals convicted of misdemeanors or violations to apply for expungement of their convictions. Applications could take place three years after conviction and after all fines have been paid and court orders fulfilled. Another bill creates a statewide database to track law enforcement officers’ hiring, as well as disciplinary actions, reassignments for cause, and use of force complaints faced by an officer. Disciplinary actions and use of force complaints would have to be sent to the database within 30 days. Resignations related to complaints or investigations would have to be reported in 15 days. The law requires the database to be operational by October 1, 2023.

May 3, 2021 Group Watch: Kenneth Paschal Wins Special GOP Primary Runoff in House District 73

On Tuesday, U.S. Army veteran Kenneth Paschal won the special Republican primary runoff   election in House District 73. Paschal defeated Helena City Councilwoman Leigh Hulsey by 64 votes. The safely Republican seat was left vacant by Rep. Matt Fridy’s election to the Court of Civil Appeals. Paschal served 21 years in the Army before retiring in 2006. He is a past commander of the American Legion and a member of the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce. His primary runoff victory all but assures he will become the next representative from District 73. This would make Paschal the first African-American elected as a Republican to the Alabama Legislature since Reconstruction.

May 3, 2021 Group Watch: Lawmakers Considering Delay of AL Literacy Act

The Alabama Legislature passed the Literacy Act in 2019 to emphasize the importance of making sure children learn to read in the earliest grades. The House Education Policy Committee held a public hearing on a Senate-passed bill that would delay its implementation until the 2023-2024 school year. The bill’s sponsor, Senator Rodger Smitherman, said the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic during last school year and this school year are cause for putting off the requirement. Smitherman said the bill is designed to give students an opportunity to get prepared and be able to experience success. The committee did not vote on the bill, but the committee chair Rep. Terri Collins said she wanted the committee to meet next week and take a vote. Collins was lead sponsor of the Alabama Literacy Act.

April 26, 2021 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

Last week’s political and issue-based announcements were a mixed bag of good news on some fronts and setbacks on others. A bright spot: the state’s education efforts got some positive recognition.

This session’s big-headline bills — gambling and medical marijuana —  are both staying alive, but now waiting for a vote in the House, which, according to House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, may not come up for another few weeks.

And Alabama is moving to join the ranks of other states, including several in the South, that have laws on the books to make Daylight-Savings Time permanent, if and when Congress votes to allow it.

Find details on all this and more below.

The House and Senate return on April 27 at 1 and 2 pm respectively.
Watch live video of both chambers here.

  • Tuesday, April 20 (24th legislative day): The House passed a few bills of local application only and Senate-passed bills to add a consumer member to the State Board of Respiratory Therapy and to further provide for contracts affecting engineers and other design professionals. It also passed bills to prohibit racial  profiling by law enforcement officers and to further provide for the collection of certain data and the sharing of the data.The Senate passed bills to: prohibit racial profiling by law enforcement officers; to further provide for the collection of certain data and the sharing of the data; and to further provide for community development districts and the deposit of sales tax proceeds. The Senate also approved House-passed bills relating to schedule II-controlled substances; to require hospitals to bill an injured person’s health insurance and only seek compensation from health insurance unless certain circumstances apply; and to require healthcare facilities to allow one caregiver or visitor to patients or residents, subject to reasonable restrictions.
  • Wednesday, April 21 (a committee day): The House Education Policy Committee approved bills to provide tax credits for contributions to scholarship granting organizations and to make an additional appointment to the board of trustees for the Community College System. The House Ways and Means Education Committee approved Senate-passed appropriation bills for public education, supplemental appropriations for certain agencies, salary incentives for math and science teachers and education appropriations for several non-state entities. The Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee approved House-passed bills to provide an education assistance program for children of military persons and to provide comprehensive transition and postsecondary programs for children of disabled veterans with intellectual disabilities. The Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee approved bills to create additional legislative oversight on contracts and agreements and to create the State Employee Retirees’ Trust Fund Funding Act to provide periodic bonus payments to retired state employees.
  • Thursday, April 22 (25th legislative day): The House passed a number of bills of local application only and general bills to implement the Alabama Innovation Corporation and to authorize the Innovate Alabama Matching Grant Program. It also gave final approval to the Digital Expansion Authority relating to broadband and connectivity. The Senate gave final approval to several House-passed bills of local application only and House-passed general bills to: further provide for the authority of the Board of Social Work examiners; authorize the Secretary of State to conduct a one-time post-election audit of vote count; apply penalties to persons voting more than once in any election to include elections held in another state; and revise the timeframe for applying to vote absentee.

April 26, 2021 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

@JaniceDean
April 26
This is @tylerperrys incredible speech which most of Hollywood don’t want you to hear. God bless him.

84b3bbe1-becc-4eff-9ffb-5b68811399ea

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