4/15/2019 Group Watch: Senator Shelby Honored

The Alabama Legislature passed a resolution honoring the historic accomplishments of U.S. Senator Richard Shelby especially relating to his impact on higher education and research. The resolution outlines his longtime, steadfast support of Pell Grants, which are a critical tool in allowing Alabama students to afford higher educational attainment. It also notes his deep commitment to advance science and technology education and medical research at the University of Alabama, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Auburn University and the University of South Alabama.

April 8, 2019 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The Alabama Legislature hit the ground running last week after a week off, starting the lottery discussion and more. Here’s a day-by-day recap, and more details on some of the larger issues are in the the briefs below.
  • Tuesday, Day 5 of Regular Session: The House passed a number of bills of local application and completed work on the last of 15 sunset measures before passing general bills, including those allowing statements to be entered into evidence in child abuse cases by a child under the age of 12 if they were given during forensic interview; to expand and clarify requirements for membership of child advocacy centers in the Alabama Network of Children Advocacy Centers; and to authorize the making of infusions using distilled spirits. The Senate passed bills to allow students in grades 6 to 12 to elect courses on the study of the Bible, monuments, artifacts and symbols; to require insurance companies to provide certain information relating to corporate governance to the state insurance commissioner; and require insurance licensee to provide certain information the state insurance commissioner regarding information security programs.
  • Wednesday, Day 6 of Regular Session: The House Ways and Means Education Committee approved a bill giving future public retirees another option for receiving a partial lump-sum distribution. The House Ways and Means General Fund Committee approved bills for the distribution of Children First Trust Fund appropriations, the General Fund budget and an appropriation to the Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill described as the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Fund. The House Economic Development and Tourism Committee approved a bill exempting economic development professionals from the definition of a lobbyist. The Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee approved bills to provide lump-sum merit reward payments for full-time employees at the top of their pay range and to further provide for unspent appropriations transfers to the General Fund Reserve Fund. The Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee approved a bill that further provides for local employers participating in the Employee Retirement System (ERS).
  • Thursday, Day 7 of Regular Session: The House passed several bills of local application only and general bills that include bills to further provide for local employers participating in the ERS and to exempt economic development professionals from the definition of lobbyist in certain circumstances. The Senate passed a number of bills of local application only and general bills to criminalize the taking of a video or photo depicting intimate areas of a person without that person’s consent and to require a County Superintendent of Education be appointed unless provided otherwise by the constitution.

4/8/2019 Group Watch: Dueling Lottery Bills Debated

Sharp division emerged concerning electronic gambling during a public hearing on dueling lottery proposals. The Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee heard input on two lottery bills. One bill would start a state lottery and also allow video lottery terminals at licensed locations, including dog tracks in Birmingham, Tuskegee, Mobile and Greene County. Another bill would allow a lottery with paper tickets only. Opponents of the latter bill say that would give the Poarch Creek Indians a monopoly on electronic gambling. No vote was taken but there are obvious details that have to be worked out before a bill leaves the Senate.

4/8/2019 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

April 6
This morning, I was honored to host my first Easter Egg hunt at the Governor’s Mansion for children in the @MagicMomentsALprogram. It was refreshing to see so many little ones running across the lawn to gather eggs & meet the Easter Bunny! #BeyondtheMoment

4/8/2019 Group Watch: Rural Economic Development Coordinator Coming

Alabama has created a position to speed economic development for its non-urban areas. Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield recently announced the new position of rural development manager, which should be filled in the coming weeks. The position will provide technical assistance to rural communities under consideration for economic development projects. The coordinator will also assist and provide training for rural communities looking to become more competitive in the development process. Rural lawmakers are praising the move to help economic development in rural parts of the state.

4/8/2019 Group Watch: Prison Problems

The U. S. Department of Justice announced there is reasonable cause to believe that conditions in Alabama prisons violate the Constitution. The report focuses on riveting accounts of violence and death inside the crowed and dangerously understaffed facilities. The governor’s office said the Alabama Department of Corrections already acknowledged many of the issues in the DOJ’s findings letter. Governor Ivey has asked the legislature for $40 million to address the issues in the Department.

March 25, 2019 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The Alabama Legislature’s 2019 Regular Session resumed last week, and it was a busy one before the body took a week’s break. (Both chambers reconvene on April 2). Here’s a recap:
  • Tuesday, Day 2 of Regular Session: The Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee approved a bill to authorize the hunting of whitetail deer or feral swine by means of bait when the privilege is purchased. The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee approved bills to exempt legislative redistricting bills from being read at length prior to final passage; to allow athletic agents to pay certain expenses to a student athlete or the family of the athlete; to provide a an income tax refund check-off for a contribution to We Build the Wall, Inc.; and to add the chairs of the House Ways and Means General Fund and Education and the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund and Education Committees to the Contract Review Permanent Legislative Oversight Committee.
  • Wednesday, Day 3 of Regular Session: The House had no bills in position for final passage. The House Judiciary Committee approved several bills including bills to provide for the appointment by the circuit court of court referees to handle domestic relations child support cases and to allow statements to be entered into evidence in cases if they were made by a child under the age of 12 during a forensic interview and pertain to allegations of abuse against a child. The House Children and Senior Advocacy Committee approved a bill to expand and clarify requirements for membership of child advocacy centers. The House Boards, Agencies and Commissions Committee approved a large number of sunset bills relating to various agencies and boards. The Senate passed one bill relating to county housing authorities and the electronic posting of notices to potential purchasers of bonds. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved several bills including bills to authorize voluntary transfers to pretrial diversion programs by municipal courts and to address the proliferation of telemarketers and telephone solicitation. The Senate Education Policy Committee approved several bills, including one to terminate Common Core Curriculum Standards in K-12 education.
  • Thursday, Day 4 of Regular Session: The House passed a large number of bills of local application only and a large number of bills under the Sunset provision continuing the operation of a number of state boards and commissions including the State Board of Licensure for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors. The Senate passed several general bills including bills to provide an income tax refund check-off for a contribution to We Build the Wall and to repeal Common Core Curriculum Standards in education.

3/25/2019 Group Watch: Lottery Plan Announced

State Senator Jim McClendon of Springville announced this week he is introducing legislation to establish a state lottery. McClendon said that people in his district would like to be able to a lottery ticket without leaving the state like people in 45 other states can do. He stated that his proposal requires a vote of the people and is not intended to solve budget problems while dividing the revenue between the Education Trust Fund and the General Fund. McClendon said his preference would be to have the measure on the ballot in the presidential primary in March 2020 because of the large number of voters would be participating.

3/25/2019 Group Watch: Community College System Expanding Programs

Alabama’s community college system has inked a deal to expand students’ access to aerospace, manufacturing and defense industry training. The Alabama Community College System and Huntsville’s Von Braun Center for Science and Innovation’s University Consortium are partnering to advance emerging technology programs. The agreement will lead to the creation of a system engineering technology degree. Students could study aerospace, automotive manufacturing, maritime, digital transformation and engineering technology.

3/25/2019 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

March 22
Happy Birthday @willainsworthAL!!!

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